I was watching the Chris Dorner situation just like anyone in the LA area. My main medium of communication during the day is not necessarily e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or the telephone, but rather a sports message board community.
So I took my thoughts there with the hope of seeing something interesting enough to respond to.
Sure enough, there was a thread about the situation.
One post was about how Dorner reinforced stereotypes of black people by acting out against the officer, choking him, and eventually getting fired as a result.
Irked, I responded that people shouldn’t think and confine people to stereotypes: people of color are more than their color. More of the public needs to realize that. We need to respect that there is a complexity to individuals and people of any color.
He responded that people of color need to show respect first. He shared an anecdotal story about how black teenagers were acting “loud” and “obnoxious” on the light rail on his way to a basketball game. The teenagers apparently referenced Martin Luther King when pushing around some white people. He said that passengers on the rail and older black men were shaking their heads at what they had seen as if they were ashamed for their race.
I responded that perhaps “respect” means something different for them. I don’t think the black men on the light rail were ashamed for their race. Embarrassed, yes, but not ashamed of their color. While I may harbor the same stereotypes of young black teenagers, I essentially repeat that you have to look beyond stereotypes and acknowledge that there is complexity to these individuals; there is more than the tough exterior.
People are more than what other people acknowledge as their main social identity in public. Black people are more than just black people. Gays are more than just gay people. Michael Jordan is more than just an athlete. They too are sons/daughters, brothers/sisters, church-goers, gun-lovers, gun-haters. They carry out the same human functions of eating, shitting, breathing. They have the same range of emotions. They love, they hate, they laugh.
I don’t think people can get past stereotypes; that seems to be how most of us humans think in general. Stereotypes are a way of simplifying an entity or phenomena so that we are not overwhelmed with information. However, I think that even though we have our limitations, we also have the ability to reflect. We can think beyond stereotypes of social identities; that is we can acknowledge that we have them, but we have to know that there is more than meets the eye, the ear, the skin, the intution.
Acknowledge it in everyone you meet.