Considering prejudices

| Forum Editor

(Erin Mitchell | Student Life)

(Erin Mitchell | Student Life)

An interesting e-mail came in my inbox from an anonymous person, asking the point of my last article on stereotypes of drug users. Why point out that we group drug users together? Sure, so we stereotype people. Who cares? The question is valid, and one that I think is worth considering. The reason I wrote the article is to point out the hypocrisy that all of us have: we are biased to condemn certain stereotypes and not others. While it’s a major social taboo to negatively stereotype race or sexual preference­—and rightfully so—it’s socially acceptable to negatively stereotype and prejudice another group of people (in the article’s case, drug users). It seems contradictory that we take pride in our attempt to eradicate racism, but not other social prejudices.

Of course, my example is extreme, and so maybe I’m being unfair. Being gay or straight, black or white, male or female, are all things that we cannot control and are given to us at birth. But I don’t think that it factors into the analysis; people shouldn’t care what others do in the privacy of their own home. As long as one doesn’t harm another, people should be free to do whatever they want to. That’s a great theory, but it often falls on its face in practice. We subconsciously discriminate against people all the time for their lifestyles, and sometimes we even actively engage in prejudice—some just get more press coverage than others do.

Naturally, realizing something doesn’t make it go away—I’m not preaching for any anti-xyz organization here. However, there is something to be gained from making it explicit, and I think that if read charitably, the point of my last article becomes clearer. If we take the time to entertain—if only for a second—the idea that we might be subconsciously prejudicing someone, and if we have any reason to reject such prejudices, then we move one step forward toward dissolving it.

We tend to embrace progressivism and liberalism (in the historical sense) and try to break down prejudicial barriers. I think that’s a great principle to stand by, but I also think that if we are to embrace that idea, we should be consistent in its application. We may not be perfect at it, and typecasting and prejudicing are part of being an imperfect human. But at the same time, we should strive for this ideal—not just to eliminate prejudice against a race, or gender, or sexual preference, but to eliminate prejudice period. That’s a goal that I think all too often gets overlooked, and one that can benefit us all, if attended to.

AJ is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.