With all the news on the Martin/Zimmerman trial and then TIME magazine (not so gently) blowing fire into the world of breastfeeding, I've become rudely aware of how much stereotyping there is out there.
I have lots of opinions and views on the trial, but I really don't have the energy to get into it right now and that would totally blow this entry off course.
What I will say, is that the whole thing reeks of stereotyping to me. The simple fact that Zimmerman instantly suspected Martin because of how he was dressed, makes my head swim. But then we have to think about the simple reasons as to why he even thought Martin was up to no good. There was/is a reason behind that. And it's much more complex than a simple piece of clothing. Same with the breastfeeding mom, nursing her toddler who is standing up. Mothers assaulted her verbally on the web and in other blogs around the US. Why? Because she is now a radical. Everything that attachment parenting is not, at least to most parents.
We are judged the moment we walk into a room, whether it is a waiting room at a clinic, a store at the mall, or going in for an interview. We are judged and then stereotyped before we even open our mouths. By our perfume, our clothes, our gait, our glasses, etc. This is part of the hard wiring in our brains. We assess strangers and try to judge if our fight or flight instinct needs to become activated. Are they friendly? Are they Dangerous? Are they a good worker? Are they poor? And so on. These questions rattle through our minds and after a few minutes, maybe even after hearing them speak, we have filed them into a category. First impressions are the hardest to shake and in Martin's case, sometimes deadly.
Then there is the problem on the other side of that. How do we express who we are without being filed into a certain category? In honesty, there isn't a way to do that. Everyone is different and has a different view of what dangerous, sexy, trashy, is and that is where the trouble lies.
I have a lot of appreciation for people who uphold our laws in this area. They HAVE to shut off this sense almost entirely, in order to see truth. And truth is a lot more complex than black and white. It would be easy to say that everyone who is a Gangster, wears baggy pants and hoodies with something in the pocket, is dangerous and out to rob someone. But that isn't true. The same way it's easy to say that all hippies smoke pot, live in a commune and have free sex. But that's not true either and these are stereotypes that we ALL think of when we hear the words. Not to the same degrees surely, but we each have an idea of what an extreme might be.
When it comes to the Martin/Zimmerman case, everyone is crying out racism. When really that isn't what got him killed. It was behavior and attire and fear of those two combined that formed the radical image of who this kid was before they even met.
Same with the picture of the mother nursing her toddler. She has automatically been stamped with the seal of partial insanity for nursing her child past 1. Especially in the states. Her breast exposed for the whole world to see has been seen by some as sexual and perverse. The innocent act of her nursing her son, has been branded obscene by many and has widened the gap even more so.
Stereotyping is dangerous and yet there is no real way to stop ourselves from doing it daily. We only have to be more meticulous in our actions that follow.