One morning while fixing coffee, I felt something crawling on my leg. A scorpion! Panicked, I flipped it off and spent several minutes hunting it down and smashing it mercilessly with a paper towel until I was sure it was dead.
Then, I got to thinking. This scorpion had done nothing to me, yet I stereotyped it. I had my mind made up that scorpions are extremely dangerous, even though their sting is somewhere between an ant and a red wasp. And, I kill them any time I see them whether or not they are a danger.
Over the years, I’ve learned not to stereotype snakes. I know which ones are poisonous and which ones are beneficial to the environment. I understand that they will not attack me unless I invade their territory. So, before killing a snake, I spend time assessing the situation and determining the risk involved.
Unfortunately, when dealing with humans different from us, we have a tendency to stereotype. This is human nature and all of us do this.
How do you stop stereotyping? Take time to meet people from a variety of different races and cultures and get to know them. Force yourself to stop during an interaction and assess whether you are stereotyping or whether there is actually some risk of harm. This takes practice and commitment.
So, several days later I met a new scorpion while I was sweeping. His tail was entangled in a dust bunny and he was not going anywhere. I looked at him for several minutes and killed him anyway. I’ll have to work on my scorpion stereotyping.