Last night, my husband and I watched NFL football players take a stand or a knee against police brutality and racial injustice during the National Anthem, we listened to a panel of West Michigan Trump and non-Trump voters have a discussion with Oprah on 60 Minutes, and we watched the first episode of the new Star Trek: Discovery. One statement, made by First Officer Burnham of the USS Shenzhou, really struck me. She said, “… it would be unwise to confuse race with culture.”
Although stereotypes are generalizations and not true in every instance, stereotypes exist because there is some truth to them. Not all Asians are paparazzis, but there was a time before cell phones when it was not uncommon to see Japanese people sporting cameras. My husband once lamented, while he was scraping doggie do from his shoe during a hike, that I take pictures of everything! I chuckled and said, “Well, I am Asian!”
Both negative and positive stereotypes or cultural characteristics exist. Cultures are not only restricted to nationalities. They can be regional, geographical and social. Police officers are not all white nor are they all brutal. The majority of police officers of various nationalities are compassionate peacekeepers and first responders. If your race or culture is carrying a certain negative label, doesn’t it make sense to be proactive and seek every opportunity to do the opposite and dispel the label, like some police officers are doing to connect with their communities and live in peace?
In most instances, the divisions we are experiencing in our country and in the world are not so much about race or even culture. Most of it stems from fear and a lack of understanding. Babies aren’t born prejudice and suspicious; they learn it. Whether it’s conservatives and liberals, blacks and cops, Christians and Muslims, or Mexicans and Trump, although our cultures and environments have shaped us into who we are, we are really all of one race—the human race—and we need to stop warring with each other. If we want to survive and experience satisfaction, it would be in our best interest to pursue peace by seeking to understand each other. As one of the West Michigan panel members expressed, we need to learn the art of discussion and compromise again, else I’ll take a stand, and you’ll take a stand, and neither of us will obtain what we want or need.
Instead of becoming defensive or offensive when ideas and cultures clash, maybe we should do what some Trump rally members did when a Black Lives Matter group showed up. Invite your ‘opponents’ to the stage to speak, too, start a dialog, gain some insight, and come to an understanding. I could even take a picture of you working together!