Friday, September 10, 2010

Love doesn't stereotype

I couldn’t tell you in any detail what I did or felt most days of September 2001. I was in high school at the time so probably normal high school student things. September 11 and 12 are the exception. The attacks happened in the middle of the night of September 11 Australian time so I was already asleep. I awoke early the next morning as I had an 8am school band practice to go to. I stumbled out in the hallway to be confronted by my tired looking mother saying something about towers and planes and New York. At first I dismissed it, thinking it must have been a bad dream she was telling me about. Upon walking past the TV I discovered that this was no dream but a very real and terrible reality.

Despite what had happened, band rehearsal and classes were still going ahead as usual. While the teacher rearranged their sheetmusic students would talk amongst themselves about what they had seen on television that morning, filling in the few students who had not heard about it. In the chatter something troubling began to emerge. I started to hear a certain ethnic group of which there was some suspicion the attackers may have come from get talked about in very unflattering terms. It was only 7 or 8 hours after the attacks and details as to who did it and why we still sketchy but racism was coming up already. People didn’t stop to think that even if they had correctly identified the ethnicity of the attackers, the proportion of that ethnic group who had anything to do with the attacks was very very very small. It was guilt by association on a massive scale.

Unfortunately such stereotyping was not an isolated incident. It is way too easy to shove people in boxes- “They belong to (group name) so they must be (negative attribute)”. We see it all the time, whether the type of group in question be ethnic, religious or any other type. It is noticeable in many of the responses to the currently debated New York Islamic cultural centre. I’m not going to get into the complicated issue of whether that project in that location is a good idea (and I ask that you don’t in the comments section). It is troubling how many people seem to assume that because they are Muslim they can’t possibly have good intentions.

Assuming the worst of people based on their group affiliation is lazy and not fair. People deserve better than that. Part of our Christian responsibility to love our neighbor means treating them how we’d want to be treated. We wouldn’t want to be thrown in with the many examples of Christians doing really stupid things so we should be careful to show others the same courtesy. Love, don't stereotype.