I am calling him a friend even though we haven’t talked in years. We attended the same schools and played sports together for most of our childhood and teenage years. After high school we went to different colleges and now he lives in Atlanta.

He shared this and it’s worth repeating.

At the time of his post, this would have required a different response. However, as time has passed, I want to rephrase the question.

The issue is with specific people being labeled as generic. Rather than considering the event with particularities, the result is considered typical and the process to be common.

Whenever there is a school shooting, the popular response is to call for legislative action against all current and potential gun owners. We scream about guns rather than condemn the shooter.

Karen Straughan frames this point in regards to feminism and language. We can’t say fireman and policeman because that will discourage women from joining these groups. But we can blame the patriarchy (or men) for all evil. That sort of language has no implication.

I remember some years ago a big todo with self fulfilling prophecy. Meaning, if you always assume a certain group to be gang members, they will begin to act accordingly. After all, if they are going to be found guilty regardless, they might as well do the crime. Yet, if this simplistic reasoning is applied elsewhere, the results can be ignored. For instance, assuming a group to be comprised of racists has no potential of fulfilling a prophecy.

Being from the South, I am quite aware of negative stereotypes. There are ways to combat prejudice, and there are ways to reinforce it. If we are wanting to unite with understanding and compassion, why are we constantly dividing ourselves? 

People can make distinctions without being hypocritical. The details do matter, but our obsession with emphasizing uniqueness has unintended consequences.

I’ve mentioned before that I live in a diverse neighborhood. I enjoy seeing neighbors walking freely, exchanging greetings and waving at each other’s kids. This environment and interaction is worth preserving, but we have to have a mutual trust.

This mutual trust is difficult to maintain if we mischaracterize each other.

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