Are stereotypes useful?

No, they are not.

I have had many arguments with bigots. But, one interaction gave me this realisation: stereotype is different from generalisation. I hate myself for being this late.

This person constantly made sweeping statements about Muslims. After receiving pushbacks, he defended himself by saying that if we want to talk about a collective, generalisation is inevitable.

What he said made sense here. How can we talk about human collectives when we are prohibited from generalising? The thing is I would be on his side… if he was being honest with himself.

A generalisation is meant to represent the entirety and it requires as many data as possible; mind you, it has the word “general” in it. If he truly wanted to have an honest discussion, he would have acknowledged that a group embodies different individuals and each of them almost certainly identifies with more than one labels. He would have been mindful of the diversity and the rigidness of pigeonholes.

Instead, he chose to paint a group of one billion believers as a hoard of centrally-controlled androids.

If you still prefer stereotype because it is the easier route, be my guest. But, you clearly don’t care about the truth.

If you do care…

You would try your best to drop all of your preconceived notions, unearth what is beneath the deceptive surface and learn as many intricate details as possible, especially ones that seemingly contradict each other.

You would try your best to embrace the complexities of life instead of settling for fact-distorting oversimplifications.

You would acknowledge that the “others” are your fellow human beings who just happen to be influenced by different life experiences and/or sets of rules.

You would have realised that just because you feel your beliefs are true, that does not mean they are.

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So, you think you experience religious bigotry?

If I ask you to define it, I am certain your answer would be something like “demonisation of (an) entire religious group(s)”. That should be clear-cut enough. But, of course, every human has their own thoughts, even wrong ones.

If someone thinks you and “your people” are complicit of immorality simply because you share a generalised label with the perpetrators (e.g. Muslim or Christian), then you definitely experience bigotry, regardless of how explicit or implicit it is.

But, do you know what is not religious bigotry? Condemnation of the bad apples!

I have encountered so many Muslims and Catholics who are unable to differentiate the two. Some of my fellow Muslims think it is bigoted to trash on Taliban, ISIS and the likes. Some Catholics I have encountered also think it is bigoted to trash on the sexual predatory-complicit Roman Catholic clergy.

Neither is bigoted because both target a very specific fragment of each group; that should be obvious enough. But, for some reasons, people get too defensive about it.

Maybe they are insecure about their own moral integrity, they feel personally attacked by condemnations meant for others. Or maybe it is something sinister.

It is possible they actually agree with the bad apples, which they consider to be the true believers. It is also possible they believe we should defend those who share labels with us, regardless of how immoral they are.

To call either one morally undignified is an understatement.

Or maybe, they are just simply a bunch of pitifully insecure beings. But, even that can bring horrible consequences.

The defensiveness compels others to have those aforementioned dark assumptions. We are lucky if the others are fellow believers. What happens if they are the bigots?

Our defensiveness makes us look like we are supportive of the bad apples or, worse, we are the bad apples! You cannot blame anyone for having such perceptions! If you are neither, why would you get defensive when people condemn the bad guys?

Don’t get wrong: bigots are a bunch of cunts. They will always dehumanise the “others”, regardless of the facts; hear what they want to hear, see what they want to see.

But, at the same time, we shouldn’t exacerbate the problem by perpetuating the stereotypes. It is no biggie when we are the only ones affected. But, bigotry is a form of collective punishment; if you misbehave, those who share labels with you will suffer the consequences… and vice versa.

You may think the defensiveness helps defending people like you. In reality, what you do empowers the bigots; you give them even more ammunitions.

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