Last week noted how reporting is a relatively new profession within our society. As a profession, they have come a long way. Yet there is a long way to go.
When a reporter tells us a story that contains a couple of facts, they can save time by resorting to a stereotype. The word stereotype comes from the early days of printing. A metal plate had to be made up of all the letters to be printed on a page of blank paper. That was the stereotype. We started using the word later on to mean describing something in very general terms. “All computers are useless” is a stereotype statement for an old crotchety person, even though the rest of us think that is incorrect.
Reporters like to use stereotypes when they can because it saves them a lot of time. If they didn’t, the story would take longer, and their mean editor would make them take out something else – like a boring fact or two.
When a reporter describes a particular challenge that a dark-skinned person has encountered, they like to describe it as a problem of “race.” In our society, we used to like to describe different ethnic groups as different “races.” The Italian race, the Jewish race, or even as “Red” or “Yellow” depending on their backgrounds.
The deep problem here is that these divisions are wholly contrived, they don’t exist in reality. We made them up for emotional reasons, and they persist because people like reporters continue to use them. Biologists, geneticists, and anthropologists have proven over and over again that there is no such thing. We are all so similar as people that we may as well divide ourselves based on “gap toothed” or “pigeon toed.”
So, if you’re a reporter, please stick to the facts – the real facts. And if you’re a student of behavior, remember that we are all alike in very deep ways. You may have even been the victim of prejudice because of your skin color, but take solace in the fact that it wasn’t because of your race.