Vicious Stereotypes in Polite Society

One of the less attractive patterns in human behavior is our tendency to stereotype those with whom we disagree, those whose interests conflict with our own, or those who are simply different from ourselves. Such stereotypes create and reinforce prejudice, and they distort our politics, our policy debates, and our constitutional debates. These evils are of course well known; they are an important part of racism, sexism, and discrimination against lesbians and gays. But we do not appear to have generalized the lessons.

Among the educated classes that have been most sensitized to the dangers of the most widely condemned stereotypes, other stereotypes and prejudices flourish. Respected academics and journalists, and respected journals who pride themselves on their tolerance, publish extraordinary statements about groups that have generally failed to engage the sympathies of intellectuals.

In this brief comment, I wish to illustrate the point with a few clear examples. Some involve religion; one involves a potpourri of political and class biases. These are by no means the only examples; the problem is pervasive. Many of us-probably most of us-have acted on unstated and unexamined assumptions that would be as offensive as these if we committed them to print without the veil of euphemisms. Printed or unprinted, flagrant or veiled, these stereotypes are corrosive of the social fabric. The only way to resist is to highlight them and to sensitize ourselves to them.

This is a fantastic piece. I think it took real guts to publish. It and bears reading in its entirety, especially by smart people, academics, and intellectuals. Via VICIOUS STEREOTYPES IN POLITE SOCIETY.

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