By Rachid Acim
By Rachid Acim
Morocco World News
Beni Mellal, August 26, 2012
Have you ever stopped for a while and reflected on other human beings like you. What would you think of those who don’t look like you? And those who don’t speak like you? What would you say about those who don’t behave like you? And those who don’t eat and drink the way you do?
What kind of portrait do you maintain about Americans, French, Spanish or even Italians? Are you going to reiterate that the Italians eat more pizza, that the Americans eat burger and drink cola, that the Spanish love to eat burritos and that the French cannot resist eating pork.
If your answer is yes, then you will need to correct your view as not all Americans enjoy burger and not all Spanish are fond of burritos. The same goes for French and Italians. These are generalizations and mere stereotypes. Most of the time, they prove to be untrue.
Of course, we all have different conceptions and stereotypes about others. At one moment of our life, we did stereotype and malign particular groups of people. We said for example that the Soussi (Amazigh from southern Morocco) are both mean and close-handed, that the Fassi are arrogant and more civilized and that the Riffi (Amazigh from northern Morocco) are violent and strict.
These pictures have accompanied us for many years. They were handed to us from our ancestors who used to mingle with these people. But are the Soussi really mean? Are the Fassi really arrogant and are the Riffi really violent?
Dealing with these people can tell more about them and their manners.
A dangerous thing about stereotypes is that by repetition, they are retained and maintained in the public memory; they can often result from and lead to discrimination, bigotry and prejudice. Egyptians have much to say about this. Their proverbial saying goes as follows: “al-Tikrar biallem il hmar” (by repetition, even the donkey learns).
The problem with us is that we took these stereotypes to the letter. We never questioned ourselves whether they are true or false and whether they need to be perpetuated or reconsidered for a more effective dialogue and a sense of comprehensiveness to take place.
As assumptions or generalizations, stereotypes tend to belittle if not dehumanize particular groups. Needless to recap that it seems inevitable for humans to discriminate and despise each other. In the words of Sydney Harris, if the Italians have the Mafia, all Italians are suspect; if the Jews have financiers, all Jews are part of an international conspiracy; if the Arabs have fanatics, all Arabs are violent.
In fact, this is nonsensical. The Italians can be more friendly and upright. The Jews on the other hand can be both neighborly and hospitable. The Arabs can be more peaceful and sociable than others.
It should be remembered that stereotypes flourish in conflicting situations. So, when people get involved in a serious conflict, their view of their opponent becomes more negative and hostile. Erroneous information circulates to deceive others and the result is both hatred and resentment.
Therefore, whenever stereotypes are present, communication turns out to be less successful and impossible. Each side has already got a fixed (and often wrong) belief of the other. Background knowledge in this respect cannot help; instead, it will widen the prisms between either sides of the communication process.
The cultural media, including music, magazines, TV, art and literature are beset with many stereotypes that have targeted a variety of minorities and assigned to them negative traits and roles since time immemorial. The American movie industry, for example, have represented Arabs as “others,” “sandy niggers,” “sons of dogs,” “filthy beasts,” oily sheikhs.” Their women are “belly dancers,” “sorceries” and “sexual objects.” They are oppressed and silenced, always portrayed in black from head to toe like a ninja.
The Mexicans are stereotyped as being irresponsible, childish, dirty, lazy and dishonest. The Asians are incredibly intelligent, so fond of karate and eating rice. The Jews are greedy and untrustworthy and the Indians are silly and vindictive.
Demeaning stereotypes can have far more pernicious effects on those who experience them. Consider the black skinned (wo)man who is frequently turned down in any kind of employment merely because the white employer (also the master) is convinced that all blacks are stupid, lazy, inexperienced and ignorant.
Or, the veiled Muslim woman who applies for a seat in a university course and is rejected by her Western professor owing to her dress evocative of a culture that is alien to him.
In either case, stereotypes are detrimental. Obviously, they don’t fit in the human context. They not only inferiorize these people, but also categorize them socially. In a word, the stereotyped people are in the margin. They aren’t like the rest of us. They shouldn’t work and they shouldn’t study because they don’t speak like us. They don’t eat like us. They don’t dress and drink like us. Would They continue looking at Us as a sort of They? Time will show.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed