Tag Archives: stereotyping

Sympathy for one group – but not the other?

I had a conversation this week and, in trying to make a point to the person with whom I was speaking, these two narratives popped into my head, almost fully formed before I even wrote them down:

muslim and police woman

I am a Muslim. I love being a Muslim. So much of my identity is based in being a part of Islam. I love the camaraderie and fellowship of other Muslims. I make no apologies for that.

I understand that many people are afraid of me. That makes me sad, and, at times, very defensive, even angry.

It is completely unfair that people assume all Muslims are bad because of the violent acts of a small minority of Muslims in the USA. The vast majority of Muslims are good people who care deeply about their communities, they want to contribute positively to such, and they want all people to live in peace. Yes, there are Muslims that do not respect human rights and that have done horrible, violent, reprehensible things in the USA, like:

But I should not have to publicly condemn such acts of violence over and over and over. The assumption shouldn’t be made that I support these events just because I’m a Muslim.

We’ve seen social media posts and videos of Muslims, some of them considered leaders by other Muslims, celebrating or trying to justify these violent acts. But I shouldn’t have to apologize because an Iman with thousands of followers excuses or even promotes these violations of human rights. I want to be judged by my character and actions, not those of others.

I’m proud of my hijab, and when you see me in it, please don’t automatically assume that I am a bad person and that I am your enemy. Please talk to me. Get to know me. I welcome the conversations.

I am a police officer. I love being a police officer. So much of my identity is based in being a police officer. I love the camaraderie and fellowship of other officers. I make no apologies for that.

I understand that many people are afraid of me. That makes me sad, and, at times, very defensive, even angry.

It is completely unfair that people assume all police officers are bad because of the violent acts of a small minority of police officers in the USA. The vast majority of police officers are good people who care deeply about their communities, they want to contribute positively to such, and they want all people to live in peace. Yes, there are police officers that do not respect human rights and that have done horrible, violent, reprehensible things in the USA, like:

But I should not have to publicly condemn such acts of violence over and over and over. The assumption shouldn’t be made that I support these events just because I’m a police officer.

We’ve seen social media posts and videos of police officers, some of them considered leaders by other police, celebrating or trying to justify these violent acts. But I shouldn’t have to apologize because a police union with thousands of members excuses or even promotes these violations of human rights. I want to be judged by my character and actions, not those of others.

I’m proud of my uniform, and when you see me in it, please don’t automatically assume that I am a bad person and that I am your enemy. Please talk to me. Get to know me. I welcome the conversations.

These two groups are so similarly demonized, but I never realized it until the morning of the day I originally drafted this. Both of these groups can say the same thing, almost word-for-word, about how they are negatively perceived by many people.

There are going to be people who are going to read one column and totally agree – and read the other column and be outraged. There are those that believe all Muslims are potential terrorists because of the acts of a minority, but would never believe all police are potentially racist because of the acts of a minority of members. And vice versa.

If you read this and felt sympathy for one group, but not for the other, I hope you will think long and hard about why that is.

Comments are welcomed, unless such use what I consider misinformation or hate-based language.

Also see:

Aid workers in fiction – new ABC show in January

There’s nonfiction books and documentaries about humanitarian workers, but not many dramatizations. I suspect the lack of novels, movie dramas and TV show dramatizations about aid workers, both paid and volunteer, is not because audiences wouldn’t enjoy reading or seeing such; rather, it’s probably because of the difficultly of writing a story that isn’t stereotypical, formulaic, or patronizing: person from North America, Europe or Australia goes to a poor part of the world and helps poor people and experiences wacky cultural differences while learning from local people and growing personally as well. Roll credits. There’s also the big fear of insulting people in developing countries, showing them as needy, ignorant, ineffectual, childlike, etc. while the aid worker is always benevolent and knowledgeable.

 

Not that such fictionalizations aren’t tried, sometimes with success:

    • I think Northern Exposure did probably the best job of any work of fiction of showing an outsider coming into a ‘foreign” place to help: Dr. Fleischman wasn’t an international aid worker, but going from New York City to rural Alaska comes about as close as you can get, and the local people, including the indigenous people, were presented in a very respectful light, each character allowed to be quite individual, interesting and, yet, less-than-perfect (human!).

 

    • The Constant Gardener does a decent job showing just how powerless aid workers are amid the chaos of extreme poverty and the influence of much better funded entities and armed groups. I thought the episodes of ER in Season 9 and 10 when a few characters worked in the Congo did a similarly good job of showing such.

 

 

  • The Poisonwood Bible does a fantastic job of showing the very bad (and a bit of the good) by missionaries who are in a poor country to preach and do a little development work as well. While most aid workers are not missionaries, there’s some excellent do NOT do this moments in the book humanitarian workers can learn from.

I write all this in anticipation of Off the Map, which will premier in January on USA-based television network ABC and will probably get shown in other countries as well eventually. The series takes place in “la Ciudad de las Estrellas,” a village in the South American jungle. “Six doctors, all of whom are running away from some sort of emotional issues and personal demons back home, arrive at the clinic and soon realize their new path is much different than anything they’ve ever dealt with as they battle the elements in this challenging and dangerous environment.” Sounds like there’s great potential for it to be stereotypical, formulaic and/or patronizing. But I’ll give it a try. I already see a big story problem: a poor village wouldn’t get SIX doctors. They’d get ONE doctor, if they were lucky, and that doctor would be the only one in a 500 mile radius.

If any executives are looking for stories to adapt to fiction, look no further than Peace Corps Worldwide, “where returned volunteers share their expertise and experiences.”