We are approaching the end of the first year of this adventure. My biggest pleasure has been interacting with friends. I want to share several responses I have received from friends; just two people today.
Cartoons. I love cartoons. I believe cartoonists are keen observers of human behavior. I spent my life thinking about human behavior and so I admire good cartoonists.
One friend sent me a clever cartoon: Pearls before Swine by Stephen Pastis, April 5, 2020. I would like to reproduce it but can’t for copyright reasons. – I appreciate cartoonists’ insights. I suggest you Google it — worth a minute of your time — also a worthwhile social-political statement.
I found it to be hilarious and demonstrated my friend understood the importance of context, which I have obviously stressed and believe to be important.
In the first frame one of the characters is writing a list and saying “I do not like Kansas, Boston or Chicago. I don’t even like America. A second character screams “if you don’t like it here get out of the country you socialist communist.” The first character responds “read the title.” The title of the list was – “Bands I don’t care for”.(For old people like myself it helps to know– Kansas, Boston, Chicago and America are the names of bands.) In the final frame; the second character says: “context takes too much time.”
A second friend came to me with a personal concern. The concern got me to thinking in more general terms than his specific matter. I was challenged and I hope you are likewise.
Symbols. Long ago and far away, I learned a valuable lesson. I am helped with my opinions and ideas if I take the time to use symbols in place of words to see the logic and applications of the topic. Then I put words in and examine my thinking. I found the process helps clarify my thinking and makes criticism of myself or by others to be an easier and clearer. I have used the process to explore my present concern. Bear with me –this is not complicated.
Let’s assume P is a property of a person. As we will see, when I replace the symbol with words, property of a person can have several meanings.
Now assume the property is something people stereotype, something with systemic prejudice. Obviously to make these conclusions we would need evidence.
Without attaching words to P, a thinking person needs to decide — Am I against stereotyping? Am I going to work to eliminate systemic prejudice? Am I against both in all situations?
Now —we can substitute words and begin to think.
Race. If P is race, most people believe we have ample evidence some people stereotype on the basis of race and they believe racial prejudice is a systemic prejudice in our society. I agree. Unfortunately some people generalize from the actions of a few to the characteristics of many people of color.
Research, articles, opinions, magazines, poems, talk shows, documentaries and books rue the problems and make society aware of the ills. Most people would claim to be against stereotyping and systemic racial prejudice. Many people go to great lengths to protests against the practices. For example some people kneel during the National Anthem to protest stereotyping and systemic racial prejudice.
Now comes the fun – we use other words and examine consistency of our thinking and our commitment against stereotyping and systemic prejudice. Now comes the reason I use symbols in my thinking.
Police. Assume P is a police uniform. My friend is a policeman. Is he — or any man or woman who puts on the uniform — subject to stereotyping? Is there systemic prejudice against police?
I am not aware of formal research, but my personal observations and my friend’s experience would suggest – the answer is yes. I think people stereotype police. I think in some cultures systemic prejudice exists against police. If anyone knows formal research to suggest either way, please let me know.
Several important questions can be developed for dialog.
1. Were you consistent with race and police? If you were not, then you are not really against stereotyping or systemic prejudice; If you are against them only under certain conditions, you need to identify those conditions.
2. If you justify stereotyping and systemic prejudice because of examples of wrong behavior—for example police shooting unarmed people of color—are people justified in racial prejudice if they have had negative experiences with people of color?
My personal view is to be against stereotyping and systemic prejudice … Period!
Try other words for P and see if you are consistent or inconsistent—for example you might try the political parties. P is the property of being a Democrat, or P is the property of being a Republican. Or religion, or, or, or…
In closing I will point out a police officer was killed in the line of duty this week, 40 miles from where my friend works. In addition to being on the front lines of the Covid-19 response and daily going home risking his family’s health, my friend faces other daily pressures I have trouble imagining. I know police make mistakes I just cannot bring myself to stereotype one million people as being as bad as their worst mistakes.