When you think about it, stereotypes make a lot of sense. They are kind of like an educated guess, and though they often have negative connotations, they can also be positive. Don't you kind of assume nerds are smart? Or that people who live in L.A. are beautiful? And don't stereotypes help us make quick decisions when we don't have time to get all the facts? So what's wrong with them?
Well, for one thing, they actually usually are negative. Stereotypes often take the form of all the worst things about a certain group, applied to the whole group. It's a defense mechanism, and a shortcut. It makes a lot of evolutionary sense. If you know that a sabre-toothed tiger makes a rustle in the bushes, then doesn't it make sense to run from all rustles in the bushes, even if 95% of them are squirrels? And today, if you see a black guy walking towards you at night, you have no way of knowing if he is trouble, but by assuming that all black people are trouble, you protect yourself from any possible threats. The problem comes, of course, with the fact that all black people are not threats, and assuming that they are, hurts the ones who aren't.
But is that a big enough problem to worry about? If making negative assumptions about entire groups of people makes us safer overall, is it worth it? Many people would trade rights for security; that is very clear these days. I, however, am not one of them, and in fact it is a very un-American thing to do. Oh, and by the way, when I say that something is American, I'm not referring to a stereotype of any sort of actual American person, I'm instead referring to an American ideal that we should all be living up to. Because clearly, amongst the hundreds of millions of us in this country, there are people that do, and do not do, every sort of thing imaginable.
One of the backbones of our legal system is "presumption of innocence," or, as most people would say, "innocent until proven guilty." Everyone is assumed innocent of all crimes until proof is produced that they are guilty. Obviously stereotypes play a part in our system of justice, but in an ideal world, this is how it would work. So why is this not applied to the rest of our lives?
It is better for ten guilty men to go free if it keeps one innocent man out of jail. Agree? Disagree? Maybe this is the crux of why I disagree with many of our current national political trends. To me, they are the height of fear and un-American ideology. Laws that require Hispanic citizens to carry documentation? What you are saying is that you are assuming that Hispanic people are undocumented. Guilty until proven innocent. If you want to block people from coming to this country (and if you do, I have no idea why), then make everyone carry documentation. If we all had Show-Me cards, like they do in Fringe, then the world would be a safer, less-free, more dystopian place to live, and if it's good enough for Hispanics, it's good enough for everyone. And being angry at poor people because some folks abuse the welfare system? Maybe you don't know many poor people, but believe me, it is better for ten system abusers to get free milk if it keeps one hard-working family going. And most people do not abuse the system. Letting the small percentage that do ruin it for everyone else is just kind of nasty and mean. Do you want to make poor people take drug tests before they receive government benefits? Well, guess what. We all receive government benefits. Do you want to take a drug test before you drive on the interstate? Do you want to take a drug test in order to get your tax refund? How about to qualify for a Pell Grant?
So what I'm saying here is, give people a chance. Even if most undocumented people are Hispanic, it doesn't mean that most Hispanics are undocumented. Most black people are not criminals, most church-goers are not whackos, most liberals are not hippies, most conservatives are not sociopaths, and most people are just people, trying to get along in the world as best they can without wanting to hurt anyone else. Sure, if you trust enough people you will eventually get hurt, but that's life, and I'd rather live it giving people the benefit of the doubt.