Society does not create stereotypes from nothing. It starts with grouping people who exhibit certain traits. Then assumption bleeds. Generalizations blanket people with unfair and misplaced stigma. It won’t end, but it can get better.
One example of stereotypes that roll over onto people who don’t deserve is those placed on the biker community. Bikers have always carried the stigmas of immoral thugs, thieves, murderers, and drug users/dealers. As with many other groups, the stereotype came from somewhere and fits some, but not all.
Recently, I have noticed an increase of hatred aimed at the biker community. The now famous incident in New York in September surely fueled some of it.
No matter who started what, or who was at fault when, the fact remains that not all bikers are the same. Many are the nicest people you will ever meet, given the chance. Trust me; I have been around them for a long time. I married one.
I’ve been hearing stories from bikers across the country who have been recent targets of a brave hatred and misconception. Drivers are purposefully assaulting them.
Last week, a seemingly angry and arrogant woman nearly killed my husband while he rode his bike. It was not typical road rage. Judging by the severity of her actions, she was aggressive, calculated, and knew exactly what she was doing.
What this lady, like so many others, did was fail to see my husband as a human being. She didn’t consider him a living, breathing person whose life could have ended in that very moment at her hands. Or, she didn’t care. That’s the danger of stereotypes.
Supposition aside, there is no way we can know for sure this woman held a grudge against bikers or if she is just an unfeeling wretch without regard for life. But stereotypes are dangerous.
They allow us to detach ourselves from other human individuals and attach ourselves to ideas instead. We need to fight back in order to make this world more peaceful, connected, and safe.
Each person we meet is an opportunity to see beyond societal labels and misconceptions. We need to see beyond our immediate reactions.
Instead of seeing a thug biker who might bust out your tail light for looking at him sideways, see a man who has worked hard all day and just wants to get home safe and kiss his wife.
Instead of seeing someone on his way to start a bar fight, suppose he’s just a guy out on a peaceful ride because he loves the wind and sun on his face.
Instead of seeing a barbarian who will keep your daughter out all night and send her home a corrupted wreck, see a man who organizes/participates in local toy runs for children who have nothing.
Try really looking at a person as a person, no matter what stereotype they seem to fit. Make a different sort of assumption about people. Suppose they are just like you in one way or another. Cling to that instead of a stereotype, and change the way you see and feel about people.