Understanding Stereotypes: A Part of LivingSideBySide™
By Callie Hubbard and Shanti Rebecca Thompson
At Global Youth Village, we work to provide a well-rounded experience that includes workshops that allow our participants to examine concepts of interpersonal communication, identity, diversity, and stereotyping. These concepts are integrated into our LivingSidebySide™ curriculum that is an integral part of the leadership and educational experience that each teen receives at the camp.
Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from recent history is the high price that the human community pays for unstable inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations. Positive relations across boundaries of difference are not accidental. Effort and education are usually essential pieces to this harmony, especially education of those who will one day shape society: our children and youths.
It is with this in mind that we engage all GYV participants in LivingSidebySide™ training in order to foster the breakdown of stereotypes, increase understanding and communication, and create a new ability to celebrate difference.
Stereotypes are a rampant part of both American culture as well as cultures across the world. They divide us and create barriers to connection. A significant step on the ladder of reducing prejudice and encouraging intergroup harmony is understanding how stereotypes are formed, how they affect our interactions, and what can be done to diffuse them. Bias and preference are natural responses in certain circumstances, but prejudice does not have to be the automatic result. We can all personally contribute in various ways at create a just and harmonious society.
Addressing the formation of stereotypes and how to counteract them is a significant part of combating prejudice in societies. As we share these principles both within the sphere of Global Youth Village and beyond, we work to leave participants with three important things to know and be aware of about stereotypes:
We look at each other through our own cultural norms.
What is loud for one cultural group may be perfectly good mannered in another group. We must learn to step out of comfortable cultural norms and view one another with a larger, more colorful lens.
It is never correct to assume that all members of a group have the same behaviors or attitudes.
Regardless of what groups we identify with, we are all individuals with our own ways of viewing and existing in the world. Moving beyond stereotypes requires that we address each person individually and not assign attitudes based on groups we assume that person fits into.
Try to avoid judging as wrong what may simply be unfamiliar or different from you.
Difference does not equate to wrong or bad. We must open ourselves to experiencing the diversity around us with an open heart and mind. It is useful to listen to the opinions of others in an effort to understand their perspective, rather that judge them to be right or wrong.
What can you do to avoid stereotypes in your interactions with others?