It’s human nature to categorize things to make sense of the world around the individual. There’s nothing wrong with categorization however when prejudice is added to the categorization, stereotyping is the result, and it’s usually not positive. That’s because stereotyping is deeply rooted in all-or-nothing logic, and is used as a forecasting tool.
Is it true that all Hispanics living in America are there illegally? No.
Is it true that all African-Americans are criminals at various stages of development? No.
Is it true that all Muslims are either terrorists or related to terrorists? No.
Is it true that all Chinese are genius-level brilliant when it comes to math and computers? No.
Is it true that all Irish are happy drunks who can’t hold their liquor and drink all the time? No.
Is it true that all Japanese are ninja masters following in the steps of Jinichi Kawakami? No.
Is it true that all Italians have ties to the mob? No.
Is it true that all Americans are social boors? No.
Unfortunately, repetition of stereotypes tends to normalize stereotypes so that some come to believe the stereotypes are accurate representations of entire groups of people. It becomes a way to convince those who buy into stereotypes that they are morally superior and more civilized than the groups that are stereotyped.
Historian Michael R. Ornelas has said in the past that “stereotypes fill the void created by ignorance.” And it’s ignorance that found its way into the literature published by Laurie River Lodge in Lynn Lake, Manitoba (Canada). It took this form in their 2014 trip planning guide.
NOTE: The 2014 trip planning guide no longer appears on the lodge’s website.
The Mathias Colomb Cree Nation sent the lodge owners a letter on 28 May 2014. And what was the result?
“It was a total mistake and should not have been in there. It’s an old trip planning guide that I’ve used for like 15 years and I had no idea that that was even in there.”
Whether this is the trip planning guide that the Laurie River Lodge has used for 15 years is immaterial. The stereotype was racist 15 years ago in 1999. In fact, according to associate professor at the University of Manitoba’s faculty of medicine and the province’s former chief public health officer, Joel Kettner, there is no scientific evidence that supports a genetic predisposition for alcohol intolerance in the aboriginal population.
And according to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), the proportion of people who drink on a daily basis is seven times higher among non-aboriginal people than among aboriginal people. Their studies also found that the rate of abstinence from alcohol for aboriginal people is twice than what it is for non-aboriginal people.
The apology from Brent Fleck, however, wasn’t an apology but rather a justification of the commentary that was found in the 2014 trip planning guide. The apology read in part:
In this excerpt, the lodge owner takes responsibility for having written the racist comments in 1999, and then justifies it by saying the comments were meant to keep guests of the lodge safe. In other words, he tried to fob it off as a company policy that addressed health and safety concerns. Except that a company policy covers ALL employees and not just a cultural group employed by the business.
He then states that he sees how the comment might be seen in context as offensive. He doesn’t own up to the fact that it’s not the context that makes the remark offensive, but the racism that’s offensive.
That “sincere apology” is no apology. What’s needed is an antidote to this kind of thinking. And where can we find such an antidote?
It’s not that hard to find. You see, the antidote to stereotyping is knowledge and honest communication.
Let’s hope that those who promote stereotypes are given the antidote sooner rather than later. The world will be a far better place inwhich to live when that happens.