Our Approach to Desperate Times: Step Two, Dismantle Stereotypes
Do you ever make assumptions about people? (Let’s be honest, we all do.)
To answer desperation with hope, peace, and unity during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must each reduce our own tendencies toward assumptions about our neighbors.
Truth: No group is a monolith.
As we dismantle stereotypes abouts religious groups, we also reduce the tendency of people to stereotype other identities
For example, when Tri-Faith Initiative facilitates experiences that bring one religious community to another, we are not just providing religious knowledge and nuance. Together, we are changing how people approach others who are different from them more broadly.
Religious groups are not monoliths, and neither are ethnic groups, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, abilities, and other identities. By building real relationships with, and gaining knowledge of others (such as with our Tri-Faith partner congregations), people become more invested in protecting the rights and dignity of others.
As we shared in this piece on wellbeing, human history offers many examples of scapegoating during times of hardship and fear. The core of this problem is stereotyping.
What’s So Bad About Stereotyped Thinking
For many, it is difficult to draw the line between unhealthy stereotyping and a healthy understanding of the shared experiences of a group of people. Lived experience with diverse people and ideas is the best way to understand differences. A mindset of group homogeneity, even with a “positive stereotype,” can easily become bigotry.
Stereotyped thinking sets up this pattern:
Outcomes of this thinking do nothing to foster peace or wellbeing in our communities.
We must work toward understanding human complexity. We must each check our assumptions, recognizing that all people are exceptions to a rule, that people change, and yet also that people identify the way they do for meaningful reasons. People are more than the sum of their parts. This delicate balance of beauty, change, and imperfection is what makes us human.
Interfaith Connections Create Change
We have a special opportunity to combat bigotry in all forms through interfaith relationships and religious literacy.
Questioning our own assumptions about groups of people dismantles cultural stereotypes and actively reduces acts of violence, discrimination, and bigotry. Through examination of assumptions and openness to human complexities, we know that Asians and Jews should not be scapegoated for COVID19 — just as Muslims should not be scapegoated for the acts of ISIL, nor other groups for the acts of violent nationalists.
We each have a responsibility to be proactive in creating inclusive spaces. When we do this together in intentional community, we amplify the change we create.
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