Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Stereotype

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A stereotype is a generalization about a person or group of people without regard to individual differences. Even seemingly positive stereotypes that link a person or group to a positive trait can have negative consequences. Prejudice is prejudging or making a decision about a person or group of people without sufficient knowledge. Prejudicial thinking is frequently based on stereotypes. Discrimination is the denial of equal treatment (by individuals or institutions) in many arenas, including employment, education, housing, banking and political rights. Discrimination is an action that can follow prejudicial thinking. Stereotypes lead to prejudice, and prejudice leads to discrimination. Too often discrimination reinforces stereotypes, and the entire cycle is repeated. Our challenge is to break the cycle.

Matthew Wayne Shepard was born on December 1, 176 in Casper, Wyoming. He was the oldest son of Judy Peck Shepard and Dennis Shepard. Shortly after midnight on October 6, 18, two other young men took Matthew from a bar to a remote field about a mile outside of Laramie. Once there, these men took him out to a split-rail fence, mercilessly beat him with a pistol, tortured him, then tied him up onto the fence, and left him for dead. All the while he begged for his life. He was found late the next day at 6 p.m. by a two bikers, some 18 hours after the brutal attack. When the bikers first saw Matthew tied to the fence, they thought that what they saw a scarecrow, but realized that it was a person.

While Matthew lay dying in hospital, just a few miles away, a group of students from Colorado State University thought it would be funny to ride atop a homecoming float that featured a scarecrow figure designed to resemble Matthews battered body. The figure was wearing a sign that said, Im gay. An obscene message was painted across the back of the scarecrows shirt. It was supposed to be a joke. Matthew remained in a coma until Monday, October 1, when he died at 15 a.m. with his family at his bedside. Hospital officials said Matthew had a fracture from behind his head to just in front of his right ear and a massive brain stem injury which affected his vital signs, including his heart beat, body temperature and other involuntary functions. There were also approximately a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. He was so badly injured in the attack that doctors were unable to operate. He never regained consciousness after being found, and remained on full life support.

This brings me to the heart of what I am trying to debate; what exactly causes a human being to act of this nature? I believe that how we were raised is directly responsible for the type of person we are today. I have asked a number of my friends and coworkers about what they think is main influence upon these acts, and .% of those people either claimed it to be the media’s fault or that it was the parents fault. It seems so surreal when I think about someone going out and committing these acts of hatred. The same question continues to run through my head, “Why or how could a human do this?”

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What is the media? The media is any company or organization that in one way or another is trying to sell something to the public. It is a well-known fact that the media is always exposing children to things they may not have learned at home. These are often of a sexual or violent nature. When a hate crime is committed, a lot of times their will be an argument or debate over what brought that person to commit such an heinous act.

One excuse used, and most commonly used by the victim’s parents or relatives, is that what their child did was all because of what he or she saw on television or a movie, or what he or she heard on the radio. Because of all the violent and sexual nature found outside of households today, it makes the media an easy scapegoat.

The second most common excuse is placing all the blame on the parents. This is the one I stand behind the most. A parent should be held responsible for their child’s actions. It is so easy to say your child is troubled because of the media; the movies they watch and the music they listen to.

Who you are, how you act, and what you do, stem’s from how you were raised. Your parents, the people you’ve grown up around, the environment you were raised in, this is what makes you you. Think about this Do you ever question your own bias and prejudice? How would you feel if someone of another race or ethnic pointed out ways in which your attitude and behavior may be insensitive? Do you ever notice character stereotyping in TV, music or movies that is based on race?

Why are all these fingers pointed at the media, at movies packed to the brim with violence, music filled with lyrics of hate and crime? Simply because no one in this day of age is willing to take any sort of responsibility. When I say this I refer to ever child’s biggest influence in their life, their parents.

In a country founded on the notion of religious freedom, it is just amazing how many children are raised believing that there is something wrong with anyone who isn’t of their religion, race or sexuality. If more people in this country want to actually change their lives for the better they must be aware of their own attitudes and behavior towards those of a different race, religion and sex. They must be willing to take unpopular stands to support the rights of all people, not just people in the groups they belong to.

How do you feel when you encounter people who have mental and/or physical disabilities? What is your reaction? Have you ever thought about what it might be like if you had a disability? Do you react the same way toward people wearing glasses as you do toward people with hearing aids or in wheelchairs?

Looking for ways to fight discrimination? Learn more about something you fear or don’t fully understand. It seems to me though, that if more parents tuned into their child’s wavelength or made an attempt to be there when they need them or have a question. Everyone knows life throws a lot of curve balls and questions at you. And these days when people have guns, sex can kill you, and when jobs are hard to find, where does a young person go for solid answers? It’s hard for a child to grow up these day’s when there are so many parents who don’t care and teachers that don’t have the time. When movies are extremely vulgar and music is really violent. Television glamorizes these sorts of things; making it appealing to children, and when they can’t find someone to go to for answers, whom can they go to?

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