Monday, September 20, 2004

Cultural Tendencies

Ambra Nykol is writing about stereotypes and generalizations. She's drawing off of a blog entry by Brenton Mumford. What makes this interesting to me is that Brenton is a white man talking about black women. Ambra is a black woman. Here is a teaser:
The immediate reaction of having this type of dialogue is for us to tense up at the thought of "gross racial generalizations". Indeed, we do get into murky waters when we start typifying people based on race. If anyone is living proof against the ramifications of that, it's me. However, interestingly enough, one would be surprised as to how some of those "generalizations" actually measure up in real life. Oftentimes, they're spot on.
Now I'm probably going to put my foot in this a lot because I am a white male too. I'm more than that, I'm a white anglo-saxon protestant male. I'm a WASP, the whitest of the white. Don't make me whistle the opening theme to Andy Griffith to prove it.

Where am I going with this? The problem of generalization is that, while useful, they are often wrong in the specific. One of my favorite lines in Gettysburg is said by Sargeant Kilrain:
The thing is, you cannot judge a race. Any man who judges by the group is a pea wit. You take men one at a time.
Generalizations are trends. At best they are just paths of statistical likelihood. At worst they are unfounded accusations or popular falsehoods. Some of them are often quite useful, but we must always keep in mind that they're never right all of the time for all people.

I think this is part of the reason God forbids us from judging by the family or the group. God may visit the sins of the father onto the son, but it is not permissable for Man to judge the son by his father. We are all individuals, with our own paths to walk under heaven. Best we be reminded that generalizations are much like the rules of grammar or spelling, for every case there is always an exception.

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