Tag Archives: stereotypes

Give up stereotypes for Lent

Image result for stereotype image

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

Therefore, God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.”

{Philippians 2.5-11, NRSV}

With hate crimes on the rise again and The Benefits of Racism receiving the most views in recent weeks on this site, which I don’t find to be coincidental, I feel it necessary to issue another option during this Lenten season.  Perhaps, we don’t need to give up chocolate or social media but something that carries more weight and that distracts us far more than we are willing to admit.  Why don’t we give up our stereotypes?

Turning over our plate or turning off our phone is inconsequential if we cannot stomach the presence of persons from other cultures.

A stereotype has been defined as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”  The field of sociology offers a more in depth description: “A stereotype is a rigid, oversimplified, often exaggerated belief that is applied both to an entire social category of people and to each individual within it. Stereotypes form the basis for prejudice, which in turn is used to justify discrimination and attitudes.”  It is important to note that a stereotype is rigid.  It is a mode of thinking that is fixed and will not likely budge.  There is no wiggle room so even if we see persons that would challenge our stereotype of their cultural group, we feel the need to hold firm and fast to this rule.

We would rather view persons who do not fit neatly into our stereotypical slots as an anomaly than reconsider our position.  They become tokens.

But, then there is Christ, who came to earth with nothing of himself.  Empty, he gives up who is so that we might accept who we are in him.  It is an amazing display of humility.  Because if anyone had a reason to be full of himself, it is Christ.  If anyone was in a position to look down his nose at others, it is the spotless Lamb.  If there were one who could throw his weight around, who could travel with an entourage of angels, who could prove himself as more than the carpenter’s son, it is Jesus.  If there was a reason to hold a grudge, he had one.  Yet, pinned to a cross, Jesus chooses to forgive.  And if there is one who is really a know- it- all and who could have stereotyped us all as nothing more than sinners, it is Christ.

Jesus calls us siblings instead, brothers and sisters who are related by his blood (Hebrews 2.10-13).

We still have a few more weeks to go and this would not deter us from Christ’s journey to the cross.  It might lengthen our timeline, however.  But, what better display of humility than to let go of our prideful assumptions, our racialized privileges, our traditional axes to grind, our go to chips on our shoulders and ready- made grudges?  What better way to practice the ministry of reconciliation than to have a relationship with a real person rather than a historical assumption passed down to us?

Give those stereotypical caricatures, expectations and relationships back to history and give it up for Lent… and perhaps for life.  And in so doing, break the mold and the pattern, participating in the new life that Christ’s stretched his arms out on a cross to give us.  This is my prayer.



Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story”

I think that her name is its own introduction.  If you don’t know her name, you will not forget it after watching this Ted Talk.  Because I do not want to ruin the surprise that her truths will reveal, I will end my commentary here and invite you to examine the single stories that you have of others.  If you are not sure or unaware that you have them, perhaps her words will assist you in remembering.




Beyond Stereotypes

label-319x400There is more to be seen of you and me than what has been thought visible and thereby obvious.  There is more to who we are.  In fact, we are quite literally scratching and picking on the surface of our humanity when we only look at the social coloring of skin.  We can’t move past race because we can’t see beyond popular, passed down and thereby treasured stereotypes.  Yes, if the truth be told, we have favorites.  But, I sense that there will be no oversharing there.

What is a stereotype?  It is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”  It is comparable to having tunnel vision.  Only in this case, the only thing you can see is how persons and cultural groups have been historically viewed.  If persons have only been seen as expendable, ignorant, hateful, criminal, an economic threat or cheap labor. And if this is how we introduce and interact with each other, then there will be no relational change.  That is, until we choose to see them differently, to decline the recommendations of race and the references of stereotypes.

However, this can only happen when we choose to see ourselves from a different angle.  This will require that we not only change positions or shoes in order to walk in someone else’s but that we discard the roles of oppressor and oppressed.  The racial relationship is the most oppressive of them all.  There is no broadening of view or perspective without these changes within us.  We cannot see beyond stereotypes if we continue to gloss over our own.


“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

~ Jeremiah 29.11, KJV

Expectations.  We all have them.  And if by some strange miracle we don’t, then we have plenty of expectations from others. So many that we won’t ever run out of them.  So many that we can give some to others.  So many that we can and do pass them along at the bus stop, in the bathroom (at least for women) or while waiting in line at the grocery store.  So many that we pass them down as tradition and identity.

So familiar are we with expectations that we hand them out as if profitable truth when they are no more than advice.  We value them though their worth fluctuates depending upon the relationship we have with the person who holds them.  We trust them.  We believe in them.  But, this can be a dangerous thing.  Still, we will never run out of expectations.

They come from everywhere and anyone at any time.  Family and friends have them.  Enemies and strangers possess them.  Both the poor and the rich share them.

Our expectations can originate from our own hopes and desires or that of our parents, relatives, teachers or friends.  But, the expectations of others can be a weighty thing.  They can feel like a burden or even alien to us.  They can be awkward and ill- fitting, seeming to be out of place.  It is because they are not our own and though given to us, they do not belong to us.  Expectations that are not our own are often the failed plans and shattered hopes of another.  It didn’t work for them but they are convinced that it will work for you.

But, we have our own expectations which are but the means by which we propel ourselves along in order that we might further our dreams and goals.  It is a personal standard.  We expect to be here or there by this age or that time.  We expect our lives to be different, richer, fuller and better.

Expectations can serve as a marker or measure of our success.  We expected to be further along in our career, to have more money, to be married or to have children.  We expected to be treated in this fashion or to be viewed in that way.  We expected her and him to change, to love us more or better, to stop doing this or to begin doing that.

Some of our expectations come from the comparisons we make to others.  It is for this reason that they are unfair.  These kinds of expectations can become a faithless judge and a merciless jury.

But, we also expect things of cultural groups because of race, racism and stereotypes.  There are many racial expectations or stereotypes.  They tell us what we should say and how we should behave and treat others, who we can aspire to become and who we will never be.  Race doesn’t expect much of some cultural groups and too much of others.  But, we must refuse to meet these expectations because our God has some of His own.

Turn off all stereotypes

“Have you ever wondered what educated black people like? Why do we like baked chicken?  Why do we love neo- soul?  Why do we rock patterned stockings?” a woman asks.  She then encourages viewers to discuss these topics with friends.  I was recently directed to a website called “Stuff Educated Black People Like.”   The list ranged from people to food and musical interests to fashion, television and political leaders, speaking of a monolithic, uniform and insular experience among persons who have a bachelor’s degree.  It is the site’s only entry.

What I don’t understand is why these stereotypes are acceptable and others are not.  Yes, I am familiar with the excuses that are given, that it is a privilege of those who belong to the group.  So, I can say something negative about socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people who are of this particular educational background because I am a member but you cannot.  But, what does this rationale say about you or me and how we feel about the group that we claim to belong to?  That we excuse black on black stereotypes?  How do such stereotypes benefit us?  What exactly is the purpose of this list or those that we have created about the groups to which we claim allegiance?

It offers no comedic relief and is certainly of no educational benefit.  What is the purpose of knowing what so- called “educated black people like”?  Is this list a means by which those who have a bachelor’s degree and identify themselves as socially colored black determine what she and he should like?  Are they to become the stereotype and if they like something that is not on the list are they no longer educated or “black”?

I believe that these stereotypes and others like them that seek to cover the life experiences, interests and abilities of entire people groups should be turned off.  These generalizations speak loudly within American culture, making it difficult to hear the still, small, new sound of life that is always attempting to speak within each of us.  I, for one, am tired of singing and hearing and buying into the same old song.  Shhhhhhh.