Friday, September 15, 2017

All Generalizations Are Bad

Yes, I'm from Idaho. But, no, I'm not a potato farmer.

Did you know there a lot of people in Idaho (the vast majority, in fact) who don't grow potatoes for a living? It's true! There are school teachers, factory workers, nurses, truck drivers, hair stylists, college professors, politicians, garbage collectors, pawn shop owners, fry cooks, custodians, and nuclear scientists living in Idaho who have never pulled a potato out of the ground.

Amazingly enough, there are also farmers in Idaho who are not potato farmers! I know this for a fact, because I grew up on a farm in Idaho, but the only time I ever saw a potato was on my dinner plate. We grew wheat, barley, and alfalfa, and we raised cattle. But no potatoes.

People make assumptions and generalizations based on limited information quite frequently. They hear the word "Idaho," and the first thing that comes to mind is potatoes. So they immediately jump to the conclusion that if you are from Idaho, you must be a potato farmer.

It happens all the time. You live in Los Angeles? Oh, you must want to be an actor. You're a Mormon? So, how many wives do you have? She's so pretty, she must have been a cheerleader. (And she's probably not very smart.) Look how tall you are. You must have played college basketball.

Just because I like posing in front of over-sized potatoes doesn't mean I'm a male model.

Some of these generalizations are pretty harmless. But, sometimes they're not. You accepted welfare? Oh, you must be a lazy freeloader. You're a Republican? Oh, you must be a racist. You voted for Trump? Oh, you must be stupid. You voted for Hillary? Oh, you must hate America.

It can be very easy for these things to get out of hand.

So, we must come to this conclusion: All generalizations are bad!

(Do you see what I did there? I made a generalization that said that all generalizations are bad. But if all generalizations are bad, wouldn't that mean that my generalization that all generalizations are bad is also bad? It's all pretty confusing, isn't it?)

Not all of the assumptions we make by generalizing are bad. Not all of them are right. (Is it true that all Canadians are really nice? Probably not, but it's not such a bad generalization to characterize a people by.) Not all of them are wrong. (If you assume everyone you meet in Utah is a Mormon, you would be correct very, very often, but not all of the time.)

I guess what I'm saying is that we can't always assume our generalizations are true. We need to look at each person and each case individually. Sometimes people don't always fit into the neat little stereotypes that we think should define them.

Just because I'm extremely handsome, it doesn't mean that I'm not very smart. (And I guess if someone assumes I'm a potato farmer just because I'm from Idaho, that's not the worst thing in the world. I hear they're all really hard workers.)

No comments:

Post a Comment