Rev. Dr. Chuck Moffett
We all know that stereotypical thinking is dangerous – but each of us does it. I confess I do. With my international upbringing and convictions, I have been an avid advocate to avoid seeing the world through stereotypical lenses. Constantly, and intentionally, I examine my own perceptions to eradicate any stereotypical bias. But sometimes I have a cruel, but necessary, correction to my worldview. Recently I had one of those “hit-me-up-the-side-of-the-head-with-a- two-by-four” learnings. Not pleasant, but much needed.
Let me pause here to make sure we all are on the same page. Some definitions of “stereotypical thinking”:
- “To believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same;”
- “A widely held, but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”
Over the years, the term“Australian Aborigines” has conjured up in my mind a group of people who are tribal, uneducated, crude, bush people. My stereotype was a negative, demeaning, insensitive, and offensive characterization. Then I learned that the Australian Aborigines immigrated from Africa over 45,000 years ago, and as such are one of the oldest living populations in the world, and may also have the oldest continuous culture on our planet.
Why share this now? I came across an Australian Aboriginal proverb which is at the foundation of their culture and religion. These “stereotypical inadequate” people taught me a profound truth that left me in awe of their wisdom, insight, perspective, and humility:
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home.” Need we say any more?!