The Single Story of Stereotype

“Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.” ~Buddhist Quote

Our words are one of the greatest gift we possess. With few exceptions, communication in other species is nowhere near as complex as our own. We are able to articulate ideas, intangibilities and emotions into languages, enabling collective knowledge and sharing of information. Even with such an empowered tool, our own communications are still limited.

We must be vigilant in our use of words for they contain the seed of thought. Ideas spread to others faster than we can imagine and inevitably influence their outlook. It is easy to fall into the world of generalization, bias and stereotype.

Grouping people together and assigning set traits, features and abilities is easier than respecting each person as an individual. It is a quick and easy way to communicate basic information about a set of similar persons. It is also the gateway to stereotypes, pre-disposed notions and judgement based on assumptions.

Before you speak weigh your words.  Anticipate how they will be received and by whom.  Do your words convey the full scope or merely a summary?  Do they allow for your communication to be received by others without predisposing them to bias?

Expression and communication are powerful tools which have brought our species to the peak of social development.  They’ve opened the door to art, religion and culture.  But with their great power comes responsibility.  Words have been misused throughout history to great detriment.  A simple miscommunication or misinterpretation can result in hatred, bias and great misfortune for many.  They’ve been used to slander, insult, misguide and coerce.

Words cause wars and poetry alike.  Our great treasures must be spent wisely.  Be mindful.  Think; then speak.

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