The misleading labels

Jul 9th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest

Ignorance is no bliss and its captives are unknowingly in a sorry state of affairs. In my opinion, stereotypes are a form of ignorance defined by a restricted and conventional set of perceptions about a thing, a place or a people. Most of us rely on them because we don’t know any better and unconsciously our belief in them becomes so stringent that often the boundary between what is real and what is merely a ubiquitous opinion becomes blurred . We cloud our own minds with mumbo jumbo that hasn’t an inkling of objectivity and proudly stick up for these nonsensical perceptions.

I think a larger part of the problem lies in the fact that we are too quick to judge, consequently forming set opinions. A prudent approach would be to just observe for a while, analyze and digest the concept that experience is the best teacher. Joining the bandwagon because everyone is doing it makes one prone to harbouring prejudices. Stereotypes need not always have negative connotations; they can be positive too but the point to note is that they are generated through the media and get literally ingrained in our thought processes.  More often than not, these stereotypes propagated by the media have covert agendas. For instance, the meaning of Taliban which is plural for talib means a group of students, but now the term is akin to a terrorist organization; courtesy the western media. In newspapers, magazines, editorials, television news, entertainment, documentaries, popular fiction and textbooks, the general consensus points towards the fact that Arabs and more generally Muslims are being portrayed in a racist, stereotypical and negative fashion.l. A lot of news channels admit to not being able to report fairly about Islam and as a result they report on and talk about Islam based on their limited and often misconstrued knowledge. For instance, reporters often define ‘Jihad’ as a holy war when it’s real meaning is struggle against an unjust cause. Another term that is often misused is fundamentalism which is almost always used to mean Islamic fanaticism.

Another prime example is that of the African Americans who are generally considered to be hustlers and potentially dangerous. However, research proves otherwise, disclosing that most serious crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, and assault) in inner cities are committed by a very small proportion of African-American youth estimated at around 8% but despite that, the tendency to characterize all African-American males as criminals has an unnerving prevalence in the American society. I think Walter Lippman, journalistic critic and author was absolutely right in saying,

‘The subtlest and most pervasive of influences are those which create and maintain the repertory of stereotypes. We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them. And, those preoccupations, unless education has made us acutely aware, govern deeply the whole process of perception.

It is sad to see even the most educated of people having very constricted notions and speaking out of utter ignorance. If anything, an educated mind focuses on rationale, objectivity and common sense. It is a fact that no two people are alike, so the very idea that entire races are categorized never fails to bewilder me. Media is no God and what it portrays is not always accurate, sometimes it is better to delve into a quest for knowledge about different cultures, their social fabric, their beliefs etc. rather than blindly following it.

I feel social interaction can really change your mind about a lot of things you thought were true about people from different parts of the world. It certainly helped me broaden my spectrum of thought. I have to be honest, when I first decided to move to Australia for higher studies, I too had preconceived notions of what people would be like, although I did not openly profess them. I anticipated supreme white attitude and was mentally prepared to face it. Now, having been living in Sydney for six months and travelling daily on public transport, I can safely say that I was mistaken. So far I have not encountered even a single case of racial discrimination. If anything, I was pleasantly surprised at how affable some of the Australians I cut paths with were. I won’t say that all Australians are forthcoming and open to foreigners simply because I have not met all of them, but I will say that there is potential for good and bad amidst every society. Traits just cannot be generic.

So for me, if there is one thing that holds true, it is the notion that you just cannot believe it until you see it!

Humaira Ahmad

About the author

Humaira Ahmad Hirose is a freelance writer and blogger who thinks narcissism is necessary for high self esteem.

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  1. very good ………. keep it up …

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