Fire Away!

By Dee Jay Gordon

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Why is it that a few people who won't play by the rules always spoil it for everyone? A case in point:

A few months ago, I was in my Jeep, preparing to make a southbound right turn at a green light. As I started to make my turn, a bicyclist, traveling north on this southbound lane, collided with my Jeep. He immediately started yelling at me, shouting profanities, conveying his opinion about my intelligence and mental health. Yes, his bike was toast! No, he wasn't injured. Being the mature individual that I am, I proceeded to explain the rules of the road to him. Bicyclists are to ride with the flow of traffic, not against it (you knew that, right?). Not only that, but he would have had a red light if he'd been in the proper lane! Okay, maybe I explained it a little loudly, but that's only because I wanted to make sure he heard me over the traffic.

Now, bicyclists have a bad reputation. They slow traffic, drive in the middle of the road, don't pay attention and swerve into cars, etc. But do you realize that maybe only 10% of all bicyclists don't obey the rules of the road and are unsafe? Yet they all get a reputation because of the transgressions of their naughty brothers and sisters!

Do you remember when you were a kid and the whole class had to miss recess because a few kids weren't behaving? Didn't you hate that? Everyone gets punished for the misdeeds of the minority. This, my dears, is where stereotypes are originated.

Everyone, quick, raise your hand if you're a blonde. Keep'em up. Now lower your hand if you know who the President of the United States is. Also lower your hand if you know where the Pacific Ocean is located. How many of you still have your hands up? I'll bet not very many. Hillary Clinton is a blonde. Lower your hand if you knew that.

All you women out there who act dippy in the work place, then, when you are passed over for a promotion, scream, "Discrimination!" stop it immediately! You're giving me a bad reputation, when I didn't even do anything. And you Black Americans who commit crimes, get caught, then whine because the White Man is keeping you down, jump on the clue bus! My law-abiding, responsible, educated Black buddies don't appreciate you perpetuating a stereotype that affects their day-to-day life.

There's an old saying in advertising, "Perception is Reality." If someone encounters more obnoxious teenagers than good ones, they form the opinion that all teenagers are obnoxious. If they watch movies where Harley riders are the villains, and they see these mean looking guys on their bikes getting drunk and being violent, they make that association. Unfortunately, the bad guys always get the most press, and that doesn't help matters, either. One bad apple does, in fact, spoil the whole bunch.

Ideally, we would relate to all of our fellow humans on an individual basis. But this isn't an ideal world, and humans aren't the ideal animal. To free society from stereotypes, we must begin by policing our own. When you see someone reinforcing a popular misconception, call them on it. Let them know that you don't appreciate them perpetuating a bad image that affects how others relate to you personally. This is tough, and you'll be very unpopular with you would-be peer groups. In the long run, though, the benefits will far outweigh the disadvantages.

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