Individuals vs. Stereotypes

Last week, I finished reading Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. and enjoyed reading from a different perspective than what the media usually shows. The author argues that relations between blacks and whites in America have not improved at all since Barack Obama was elected president. Things actually appear to be worse. So the author’s main point that he persistently repeats throughout the book is that, apparently in America, there is a “value gap”; thus, the lives of white people seem to be valued more than the those of blacks. (He does not mention other minority races/ethnicities.)

What I learned from the book was that government programs designed to help blacks and other minorities don’t really work because they fail to see those people as individuals. They lump everyone together in the same umbrella and judge them using stereotypes. I don’t believe that there is any way the government can help a person as an individual. The government is too large, too byzantine, and too corrupt to rip up the problem by its roots. Instead, the government prunes the dead twigs and leaves and claims that it’s making progress, but the problem is still there, putting forth new shoots every day.

I read somewhere (not in this book) that humans classify other people into groups and stereotype them because it prevents the brain from becoming overwhelmed. It is a lot harder to look at people individually because it is in our nature to try to classify them and make easy judgments. The book also reminded me of another book that I wrote about here, in which the same principle applied: we need to go against human nature and view people as individuals. It’s so easy to say and so hard to do because we stereotype automatically and subconsciously. Before we even realize we did it, we’ve done it and we can’t take it back.

Of course, I don’t have a solution to the problem of human nature. The author, Glaude, offers a few solutions, which involve using grassroots politics to turn over the status quo and unseat the politicians and other activists who have been constantly “saying” but very rarely “doing” anything to help minorities improve their lot in America.

It’s a difficult subject, but it’s one of the many that require us to face our human nature and consider how we can improve ourselves and how we view others.