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Positive Prejudice has a Punch

December 1, 2011

Can prejudice be positive? After all, one definition of prejudice is “any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.”  Another is “a preconceived preference or idea.”  Not necessarily bad or harmful, right?

So what are some positive prejudicial notions that one may hold?  Ideas that appear harmless, albeit stereotypical, like:

  • Men enjoy sports
  • Women are more nurturing than men
  • Millennials are tech-savvy

So what about the man who doesn’t like sports?  When he’s invited to play golf with the Big Boss or join his co-workers for an outing to an NBA game and he doesn’t want to participate, what’s the impact?  What about the woman who defies our conventional stereotypical views of how women should nurture and sustain others in opposition to the more aggressive behavior of men?

And how should we react when we run into the 23-year-old who has opted to not be plugged-in 24/7/365 and is quite content with writing notes in longhand and maintaining a paper calendar?

We may have notions such as these that are so ingrained they don’t even give us pause.  Comedians and our fellow human beings joke about women liking to shop together or men wanting control of the TV remote.  We assign positive outcomes to these concepts “good thing my wife likes to shop with her girlfriends; it means I don’t have to go to the mall and she can talk herself out so I don’t have to listen to her chatter.” 

We chuckle and chortle and are amused.  Which is OK.  Finding humor in the human condition has been going on for centuries.

But we need to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of thinking that prejudicial or stereotypical concepts are ultimately positive.  For anytime there is but one person who doesn’t conform to our preconceived idea of how they should behave we run the risk of marginalizing that person and diminishing our view of their worth, contributions or ability to fit in.

Just my thought for the day.

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