Racial generalizations are worse than fighting fire with fire.
For many people, the topic of race and racial discrimination is sensitive. While some people can effectively engage in discussions about it, stating their positions clearly, others may accidentally include a few generalizations without even realizing it.
In this content piece, I explain generalizations and why we should avoid them. There are a few tips for losing the generalizations when discussing race (and trust me, it’s a good idea to stay clear of them).
Racial generalizations often lead to stereotypes. They’re fixed views about people that share similar features such as skin color, geographical regions, ethnicity, etc. Usually, a generalization takes place when someone uses the actions of a specific person to apply to everyone that looks, thinks, or acts similar to that first person.
Here’s an example;
“White people judge us based on our history, calling us aggressive and things like that.”
“You’re black, how come you can’t play basketball?”
While it is probably efficient for our brains to just put everyone into one box, generalizations often give us inaccurate information about people. The examples I gave above are trying to pass some important information from the speaker’s perspective. Still, they’re also generalizing by saying white people instead of some white people. Plus, who says every black person should know how to play basketball? In fact I made a post about it that has been heavily mis-understood.
You may think this is a language error, and the word some was just missed, and it won’t happen again. You may also thinkthat the other speaker must’ve been joking. However, I think it’s deeper than that. When you do not use the right determiners such as some, a few, several, many, the information you’re passing across tends to mean something different.
It should be simple enough to understand that everyone’s unique. So, just before you put everyone into one box because of your experience with one or two or even twenty people, do this instead. Be specific about who you’re referring to, and always, always, remember that it is an experience unique to you.
…which defeats the purpose of having conversations about race.
Something that comes from describing your experience correctly (i.e., pointing out who acted in a certain way instead of generalizing to everyone who shares a race) is clear, accurate information. Everyone can listen and act on clear, accurate information. Suppose you’ve been physically hurt or slandered or discriminated against. In that case, the law enforcement agents you meet will prefer specific information to help the case.
If you can provide them with specific information, you can also provide other people with specific information when you re-tell your story. The minute you include a generalization, the accuracy of your narration becomes flawed.
Using determiners like some, many, several times, etc., can help you describe everything in the proper context.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. With this approach, the listener understands your perspective and has a chance to describe their experience of basketball. Even better, you get to learn something unique and accurate about that person.
Try losing a racial generalization today!
I hope this helps!