About Race and Sociological Stereotyping

Stereotyping is a longstanding social behavior. Stereotyping fundamentally is drawing conclusions about an individual or group based on observed behavior or reported or taught or otherwise learned behavior which may not be true of the specific object of the stereotype or even of the group itself. It may cause one to consider another as dangerous or worthless and may lead to disrespect and dehumanization and unjustified hatred just because someone is outwardly similar to an another individual or group. It is present in the absence of personally getting to know the specific inward individual. It is present when a person is judged not by the content of his or her character but by gender, color of skin, or type of dress or similar attributes. Indeed, racism is rarely if ever directed against a person one knows well except perhaps in an employment setting and then it is in modern times more about choosing between one or another rather than about only the person of the other race though it too is bad.

Stereotyping involves ascribing a particular characteristic to a group of individuals who share other characteristics; these other characteristics often involve either race, gender, religion or a combination thereof but may involve other characteristics. The shared characteristic is usually outwardly observable from a distance as in the case of race and gender but may be inwardly observable such as in the case of religion. Unfortunately, there are both White and Black Americans that engage in racial stereotyping and there are both males and females that engage in gender stereotyping. Racial stereotyping may lead to racism. Stereotyping is something that we all must be careful not to let circumstances draw us into doing.

Most, if not all of us, have engaged in stereotyping to some degree, yet to different degrees. Stereotyping is a protection mechanism. However, we can use it for good or for evil. But stereotyping should never be the impetus for violence or any evil.

Yet, to assume that stereotyping is necessarily based on race, gender or some other specific characteristic is itself racial, gender, or some other stereotyping or at least approximates such stereotyping.

Indeed, drawing conclusions about someone perceived to engage in stereotyping based on observed or perceived behavior in the absence of personally getting to know them inwardly at least borders on stereotyping them. This is something all races should be careful not to do.

Thus, each individual should first look inwardly when engaged in and/or analyzing matters involving the opposite gender or another race or other distinguishing outward attributes. Here, the word first has the sense of priority; it does not mean to neglect looking outwardly. But let us not look outwardly only and neglect to look inwardly.

Considering heightened awareness of racial tensions in America, this means Black Americans should not neglect to look inwardly at their communities. It also means that White Americans should not neglect to look inwardly at their communities. It ought to be abundantly clear both communities of race need to adjust regarding other races in areas such as attitude and responsibility, both personal and institutional.

Indeed, stereotyping is more of a matter of the heart than anything else. If within your heart you value a person as an individual distinct from all other persons, then you will tend to give a person the benefit of the doubt regardless of skin color or dress or other outward characteristics. It is not about your experiences or what others have told you but it is about your spiritual maturity. This is what Jesus means when he says in Matthew 15:10-20:10…“Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”… 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

And Proverbs 23:7 teaches that as a people think in their heart so are they.

Jesus and Proverbs are saying that what a person thinks, says and does is what defiles him. What he sees, hears, eats, learns, and otherwise takes in is not what defiles him. It is what he does with what he takes in that defiles him. It is the spiritual heart that determines what we think, say and do. Indeed, the spiritual is always more important than the physical.

Now I do not in any way mean to minimize the importance of what we take in. Indeed, what we take in tends to inform our heart if we allow it to do so. This is why in I Thessalonians 5 we have:

21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

This means we are to filter out the bad and hold to the good. This is why parents are to train up their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). And this is also the reason a society, including the churches, government, and media, ought to encourage that which is righteous and discourage that which is wicked.

Furthermore, I do not in any way mean to suggest that we should not discern or judge others. Indeed, if we do that which is biblically evil, intentional or by accident, a civilized society must still require some measure of payment for that evil to maintain order and discipline within a society. Let us not be what we accuse another of being.

With regards to the recently more visible tension between the American law enforcement community and Black Americans, I submit to you that a fundamental problem is that of stereotyping. Some but not all police negatively stereotype black men and some but not all black men negatively stereotype police persons. Repentance is in order for such people regardless of race. Indeed, there are both Black and White racist in our nation.

Thank God, I do not believe there are as many as there once was so progress has been made. Let the rebuke and correction be balanced, for all races share in the blame. We, black and white, should do our part, individually and collectively to ensure progress continues. These principles of course apply to other races and ethnicities as well.

To paraphrase a principle preached by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let the black man’s goal not be to humiliate or oppress the white man but to win his friendship; let the white man’s goal not be to humiliate or oppress the black man but to win his friendship.

We are all descendants of Adam and Eve. God made our skin with different colors or at least with the ability to take different colors in response to the environment. It is a gift from God to celebrate not to demonize. Consider the flowers and the birds of different colors! Forget not the scripture (Ephesians 6:12) that says: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

As we move forward let us be on Jesus side and fight the fight of love, black and white and all races together seeking friendship and not to be enemies.

Finally, let us remember to look inwardly. Let us not be what we accuse another of being.

To God Be the Glory!
1 Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration By Race and Ethnicity, Marc Mauer and Ryan S. King, July
2007, here

Race and Racism Racism

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