Sometimes our open mindedness is still steeped in stereotypes!!

Thanks for returning one more time for more of our discussion about recognizing the filters we often see the world through, and how even with the best of intentions we are sometimes restricted by our environment. (See the previous blog here to understand what I am talking about).

Today, we will continue our discussion but because this is a weekly blog, let’s recap what’s been covered so far:

  • Everyone has “filters” that they view the world through, we discussed how as a young child many of us had “filters” on who was responsible for what job, etc. and hopefully we are all a bit more aware of how our filters impact our point of view and opinions.
  • The people we admire or spend time with can – without anyone meaning for it to happen- restrict our quests for open mindedness. If everyone you know has similar feelings about social issues then it is hard to recognize that other people who live differently and have grown up with different filters may not agree.

So, now that we are all up to speed let’s continue our conversation today speaking briefly about stereotypes and how some of them are so ingrained in our minds that we are completely oblivious that we are operating in them. This topic could turn into a hot zone if we speak strictly about the social issues at hand in our country today. This is not a political blog, and so I will mention these current struggles in the world strictly to use them as a stepping off point. We have all read articles recently about police treating people of color differently than those that were born white, this blog is not discussing that issue, but using it as a reference for many of us because oftentimes when someone says something we all get our feathers ruffled and say “I wouldn’t judge someone based on skin color, race, gender, etc.” and for that I say THANK YOU – but that is not the topic I want to talk about. I want to go a little deeper, a bit more personal and see if I can demonstrate this point in an area that none of us would even consider.

Here we go: Let’s imagine you are once again a small child who has the opportunity to go to a friend’s home for a playdate for the first time ever with a friend whose parents are not close friends of yours. As you arrive at the home, your parents become noticeably concerned because in the front drive of the home are a couple of motorcycles, and a couple of guys in leather riding gear are sitting at a patio table. As you head to the front door you are greeted by your friend and her mother. A brief conversation occurs inside the front door, and as you are in the front room you glance into the kitchen and there in the kitchen is a big, burly, tattooed, long haired biker!! That scary looking man yells a gruff hello from the kitchen, but his voice is quite deep and though pleasant you can see that it startles your mother. Your friend grabs your hand and drags you to the kitchen. When you get there the big scary biker is doing something unexpected — he is pulling cookies out of the oven!! He swoops over and grabs your friend for a quick hug and a ruffle of hair, which is met immediately with giggles and a very loud “daddy you’re silly, followed by this big hairy tattooed man kneeling down and extending his hand to you, introducing himself as your friend’s dad and showing you the cookies that will be cooling in time for your snack. At this moment in your mind, as a young child, you see this person as a friendly adult, the father of your friend, and apparently a great cookie maker!! But that may not be the same for your parents, in fact, they may have concerns about leaving you for the playdate, and maybe even insist that your friend only play with you at your home. It is not unusual, a person often gets concerned when they see a person who looks rebellious, and doesn’t necessarily match the expectations of a child’s father. Now other parents, who know the family better, will reassure and share the positives of the family and eventually all is well. However, that initial instinct is simply a stereotype.

I share this with you because this is a true example. My husband is a biker, many of his friends are bikers, he enjoys the culture and freedom that genre of life provides to him. However, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to someone else. The entire point of this segment of the blog, is that regardless of how hard we all try, there are stereotypes that pass through our minds immediately when we see someone who looks or behaves differently than we do. If adults in your life growing up were all wearing suits and ties, that’s the filter you have for “acceptable” parent material. It isn’t wrong, it’s just demonstrating that your filter is different from someone else’s filter.
It’s all relative because I guarantee you, if you asked our grown children they would not have that “scary biker” stereotype, because of the filter they grew up with in their childhood. They know that the tough exterior my husband displays is just his own version of sugar icing enveloping one of the most kind and accepting human beings to walk the planet!! So my challenge for you this week is to check yourself, and ask if you are assuming something about a person you don’t know based on their differences. If you have an experience please leave us a note here!! While I love sharing my thoughts with you, I am always excited to get a dialogue going. Good luck this week – and join me again next week for a few final thoughts.