I have been reading different books about the histories of groups of people (e.g., Muslims, Christians, Germans, English, Americans, etc.), reading news about occurrences that involve a person in that particular group, and, going out to deal with society on a daily basis.
My question is:
Why does every group, whether it be race/religion/class/etc., seem to have its entire image distorted based on the actions of a few unscruplous individuals?
I will use some examples I mentioned in the first part:
Muslims are generally portrayed as shameless people with long beards or burqa/hijab who will kill anyone that they view as a "disbeliever". They(not the Muslims) also portray the Prophet as a "bearded, smelly guy who killed disbelievers and had sex with young children. " I was born into Muslim family, hence my full name, and, many Muslims I met at gatherings are people who make an honest living and contribute to society, just like many other people. They don't make the believer thing a big issue because, it is not something that is constructive to think about.
The region of my country that I live in has many people who call themselves Christians; many of them are down-to-Earth and don't waste time on frivolous issues. There are Christians here in the town I live in that condone the killing of brown and black people, and burn crosses while dressed in white robes and hoods all while proclaiming they follow Christianity. Jesus would certainly not do such sickening acts in the name of his God. They portray Jesus as a person who hated blacks, Arabs, Muslims, gays, women, and pretty much any person that is not a white Christian male. Many of these "Christians" are involved in the Tea Party.
Germans have been portrayed as Nazis, but, it is only a tiny number of them.
English people have been viewed as snooty and rude, but I have met many who are accomadating.
Americans are portrayed as stupid, fat and ignorant. Well, 1 in 3 Americans are obese, yes. But, onto the bottom line, many of us truly care about our country more than all the politicians in Washington. We are portrayed as stupid because we glorify our idiots more than our sensible citizens.
Virtually, all the major religious texts say something like: most humans in this World have the best intentions; it's a small few who are malevolent in their thoughts, and, they control the world.
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The bad always seems to outweigh the good. So I guess when a small number of people within a group do something bad, outside parties can view the entire group in that light. It's sad, but seems to be how the world works. I think it has to do with paranoia.
Number one: Our brains are tuned to remember the bad more than the good. This makes some sense, as bad stuff can cripple or kill you, while good stuff generally won't.
Number two: The monkeysphere. Humans can only see roughly 150 individuals as human, everyone else is just...stereotypes, really. Our brains simply cannot recognize seven billion unique individuals as unique individuals. This was fine back when we lived in groups about a hundred strong, but is obviously problematic now.
Number three: We distrust all those who are different. Another holdover from our past, alas. Anyone who wasn't in your tribe would be competing with you for food and land, and that could easily lead to fighting. So it made sense to not trust anyone you didn't see every day. What's more, if you wanted more food or land it was an advantage to see strangers as sub-human, it let you fight and kill them and claim their things as your own without remorse, so those who could prospered more than those who hesitated.
Number four: Selection bias. Once we believe something we stop being able to really notice anything that contradicts our belief, but find it incredibly easy to spot things that confirm it. Due to the above factors we already see almost everyone else as faceless threats, and so we discard evidence that indicates otherwise while remembering the stuff that re-enforces our beliefs.
Number five: "Eastern/Black/Hispanic/Jewish/Whatever people lived ordinary lives like yours" makes poor news. No one cares, due in part to the aforementioned selection bias and because the ordinary isn't really news, it's olds. So we only get told when other people do terrible things, which just re-enforces our biases.
Short answer: We evolved to work in small groups, so we have to fight our genes every step of the way to be truly global citizens.
You'd think we'd have evolved that gene out of our system by now. 8/
I...suppose we also refuse to believe that we can be just as ignorant and hateful as the people we condemn to be ignorant and hateful.
Case in point: Last semester, there was a man from Transylvania (or was it Romania? I don't know, 'cause I didn't ask him, didn't much care, and yet two semesters previous, I found myself fascinated with Saudi Arabia, because a friend of mine was from Saudi Arabia) who was a jerk to me. I don't know what the hell I did, but apparently my mere presence made him want to treat me like I wasn't there, ignore me when I spoke to him. The fact that he looked like the world's most stereotypical Eastern-European didn't help. Y'know, the big, bulky, broad-shouldered, bald guy with a thick accent who wears dark jeans and tight-fitting, long-sleeved shirts? That was him.
I haven't seen the guy in half a year, you'd think I'd let go of the old anger, but I haven't. It's still simmering within me. You are absolutely right, John (omg, we have the same name!!), about the tribal thing. That same class this Eastern European was in, I had a snobby ass teacher from Kentucky. Do I still think about her? No. I largely forgot about her. Whatever dick move she pulled, I forgave her for it. I will hesitate to invite her over for an afternoon drink at some Waffle House or IHOP joint, but I'm not fixating on that unhappy feeling half a year later. Him? If I were hopelessly lost, and he wanted to help me find my way, I'd likely ignore him and continue being lost, even if he were waving the frickin' map in the air. Yet, interestingly enough, if my teacher from Kentucky came by and said, "Yeah, I'll help you..." then I'd be willing to listen to her directions.
I suppose it's easier to forgive a member of your own tribe than it is to forgive a member of someone else's tribe. It's also easier to listen to the advices from your own tribe members...when it's the same exact advice from the tribe members from the other tribe!!
Sorry if I rambled. I just needed to get it out of my chest, and thought it'd be appropriate for this topic. I know it's probably more about humans in the broader sense, but it can also be individually, no?
You'd think we'd have evolved that gene out of our system by now. 8/
Humans have been competing and fighting with each other for our entire history, which literally makes up tens of thousands of years. It's a relatively recent phenomenon to believe that all humans are equal and I would think it'd take more than a few decades for us to simply get over "different = bad" or something like that.
"It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong"
- G. K. Chesterton
There's also the fact that a lot of the "negative stereotypes" are...well, loud. When we think "Christians", it's hard to think of anyone louder than the Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, for example.
Originally Posted by Carl Sagan
People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward their beliefs.
Unfortunately, a lot of perfectly respectable races/faiths (they're all respectable but you get what I mean) get judged based on the negatives. I've been trying to educate my grandfather about the Muslim faith for a long time and he refuses to believe they're anything other than Bible burning terrorists. A large statistic says that most athiests write off religion as fast as they do because of the hypocracy in some people. I think this really sucks, and I try very hard to NEVER judge someone based on their beliefs, race or whatever; but it seems like our society despite the efforts is still fairly close minded to anything they don't understand.