Thursday, November 6, 2008

JENNIFER RABOLD - Predjudice and Stereotypes

1. What are some of the things people who don't know you very well tend to think about you?

I think that most people think that I am completely confident and self-assured and competent at all times. There are a few people (mostly my mother, sometimes my husband) who know that I have plenty of moments of feeling totally insecure and unbearably incompetent (especially the past year and a half in my doctoral studies).

2. Which of these assumptions are true?

See above.

3. Which stereotypes about your country are true about you, if any?

Like Bianca Regina, I found a list of stereotypes about my country. According to the list, Americans are:

· Boastful and arrogant.
· Disrespectful of authority.
· Drunkard.
· Extravagant and wasteful.
· Generous.
· Ignorant of other countries and cultures.
· Informal.
· Insensitive.
· Lazy.
· Loud and obnoxious.
· Promiscuous.
· Racist.
· Rich and wealthy.
· Rude and immature.
· Snobbish.
· Stingy.
· Think they know everything.
· Thinks every country should imitate the US.
· Uninformed about politics.

A few of these are just dead wrong about me and always have been: boastful and arrogant, ignorant of other countries and cultures, lazy, loud and obnoxious, racist, thinks every country should imitate the U.S., uninformed about politics.

Some of them are probably right in comparison to other less developed countries, but certainly not in comparison to other Americans: extravagant and wasteful, rich and wealthy, stingy.

Some of them are right on the money, and I don’t mind: disrespectful of authority (but in a critical, I’m-not-going-to-believe-everything-they-say kind of way) generous, informal.

Some of them were right about me at one time or another (mostly when I was young and stupid): drunkard, promiscuous, rude and immature.

Some of them are probably more right than I’d like to admit: insensitive, snobbish, think they know everything (what? I don’t?)

4. What are situations in which you find yourself to be prejudiced?

Like many of you, I like to think that I am not prejudiced at all, but I know that my biggest prejudices are against the right-wing nut jobs, conservative Christian holier-than-thou types, homophobes, racist bigots, misogynists, and all those other people out there who are not accepting of differences. It’s much easier for me to try to walk a few miles in the moccasins of the minority, the immigrant, the refugee, the veteran with PTSD, the criminal, the homeless, the drunk, the addict, the suicide, the behavior problem, the anorexic, and all those people who are suffering, sometimes by their own bad choices and sometimes because of forces beyond their control. I guess that’s what makes me a liberal.

5. To you, what value is there in stereotypes?

There was an interesting article in Time magazine a few weeks ago called “Race and the Brain” (,9171,1848769,00.html), which explained the research about how the brain responds to someone who’s of a different race. Evidently, the reaction of the brain to a different race is initially fear, and that fear was at one time evolutionarily beneficial, because it allowed people to process very quickly who was a member of their tribe. However, that reaction occurs in the amygdala, the “animal brain,” and the higher regions of the brain can counteract that initial reaction fairly quickly. But I suppose that’s why prejudice is so hard to overcome… we’re hard wired for it. And it’s why even though we would like to say we are not prejudiced or racist, we still have to examine ourselves and our society, to acknowledge white privilege, for example (see Peggy McIntosh’s article, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” at But I suppose what’s also important to realize is that all prejudice stems from fear. And perhaps acknowledging that can free us.

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