The problem with political stereotyping
Views 35 | Time to read: 2 minutes | Uploaded: 3 - 27 - 2019 | By: Addie Michaelian
We’ve all done it. We all make assumptions about people’s political views or party affiliations, allowing categories such as race, gender, and age to instantly influence our perceptions. An older, wealthy, Caucasian male? Instantly we categorize him as conservative. Unconscious surprise flickers across our faces when the young African American reveals she’s conservative. Quickly, we analyze the confident female college student, assuming that if she cares anything about women’s equality, she’s probably liberal. The list goes on.
Classifying people politically according to superficial characteristics neglects to see people as individuals. Politicians routinely display this arrogance when they count on certain votes from specific demographics. Certainly we may have some valid reasons for making these assumptions. For instance, 59% of women favored Democratic candidates in the midterms as did 90% of African American voters. However, we should not totally disregard the other 49 or 10 percent. When making generalizations about groups we negate their inherent dignity of choice and their ability to know their own mind. It is false to assume every member of a social or ethnic group thinks or perceives the world in the same way. This hasty stereotyping also imposes a standard of political correctness, limiting the freedom of different groups to vote how they choose instead of according to tradition or precedent. Veronica Nguyen is a first-year, Asian American and Westmont’s new president of the Republican Club. She regularly experiences such stereotyping based on her identity as an a woman of color: “Generally during first encounters, people are surprised to learn that I am a conservative Republican that actively follows politics and that I am genuinely receptive to other views.”
Furthermore, once the political affiliations of an individual become apparent, it is all too easy to assume he or she will act according to stereotypical representations of their position. These split second judgments impede further conversation and understanding. In reality, people hold nuanced views that have been shaped by personal conviction and life experiences. Instead of instantly making judgements based on race or gender about a person’s political convictions, we should choose to approach another person with no assumptions regarding which political position is best for them to take.