why and when stereotyping is harmful: cases of missed opportunities

I have to admit that I got a little too "mushy" with all the reminescing from the family and friends. Maybe it was the effect of that pink on V-day. Anyway, I wanted to drop a quick word on a recurring topic on this blog: stereotyping ( let me know if it's too much and I will stop..or not). I have been looking at this issue from the perspective of the "stereotypee" and the effect on his psychee. It does not take a genius to see how stereotyping can be harmful to the one at the receiving end of it. My contention today is that it is at least just as harmful for the "stereotyper". How is that, you may ask. The usual line of defense for serial stereotyper goes like this: " I am not against (whatever group f people) I am againt stupidity or " yes, I am biaised so sue me ! " Well, stereotyping is harmful for you because of two words: missed opportunities .
Two stories illustrate my point better than I could explain: In our scientific field and in biology in particular, the proportion of women heading a laboratory is improving but still much below the male proportion. About this issue, you may recall the president of harvard (Summers)'s take on the issue, basically offering that a woman's brain may not be suited for science. I can assure you from personal experience that could not be further from the truth as most of the best scientist I have met are not only women but very charming as well. In the following link is an interesting response on the issue. Sadly a colleague of mine is also adamant about not joining a very good lab in hsi field because he "cannot work with a woman on science". It is a pity in this case because the lab in question ( best in the field bar none )would be a great opportunity for him to advance his career.
The other story concerns the hiring of Black coaches in NFL ( US football). NFL is a source of a lot of revenues and head coaches are well rewarded. Although a few successful black coaches have already proven themselves ( Tony Dungy, Marvin Lewis), the hiring process have been detrimental to minority coaches. It would seem logical to hire someone who has been a player before and can relate to most of his players but apparently that made too much sense. Michael Silver ( brilliant sportswriter) made that point in one of his column in SI and received this interesting e-mail:
" I suppose, as one of your letter-writers said, that you would be most happy to see any and all whites banned from playing to owning any football teams. Maybe they could be used as water boys and bathroom maintenance men. I'm sick and tired of you self-loathing whites who are expected to fall on our sword because of the sins of our forefathers. You don't get it, do you pal? That was another time when people thought differently. You can be sure there will come a time in the future when even out most liberal viewpoints will be thought of as barbaric. And all of you moronic liberals find it very convenient to mock others who have a serious problem with the dumbing down of America. Blacks should not be put in positions they are not ready to handle. Just because a few of them are excellenty at sports or music, it doesn't mean they are ready to lead a state or a nation. Maybe you'll be satisfied when white men, women and children are marched off to re-education camps. Sound familiar?"

Obviously, this emailer is not an owner not an open minded one at least. Nevertheless I believe that his point of view is not that marginal in North America (note the stereotyping of blacks as talented at sports and music).
The missed opportunity here is the non-hiring of a potentially great coach based on absurd reasons.
A final point on stereotyping: unnoticed in the all Mohammad cartoons fiasco was the intelligent point of view of muslims who explained why representing Mohammad in cartoon is such an offense to their faith. I am not muslim so I cannot comprehend the intricacy of the problem. The cartoonist was not muslim either and yet he tried to tackle a subject that he did not have a handle on. The missed opportunity here: being smart and just putting the pencil down before triggering chaos. Still The reaction ( the burning of embassies and death threats) is still absolutely ridiculous and pathetic. Again that is just my opinion.
Final words ( a la jerry springer :) ): encourage the reggae rabbi (see pics), the poet-linebacker and the Israelo-Palestinian tennis double, only with their success can the idiotic stereotyping be put to rest.

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