Stereotype or Generalization?

August 3, 2017

 

Let’s discuss the difference between stereotype and generalization.  Stereotype is when you react to an individual or group in a certain way based on your values, how you were raised, or your association with a particular group based on education, geographical area, or socio-economic background among others.  A generalization is your reaction to an individual or group based on your past experience with an individual or group.

A few weeks back, we viewed the clip from Up in the Air:

Click here to view

Is George Clooney’s character racist as his young traveling companion expresses?  He says he learned from his mother to stereotype.  He says, “It’s faster”.  His response to the various people in the security line were generalizations.  They was likely based on his past experience.  He likely noticed that many times, the line with mostly Asians tended to go faster.  So he generalized.  Generalizations can help us.  They can protect us.  But they can also set us up to distance ourselves from people or groups that we don’t need to distance ourselves from.

If you were in line at an ATM and the following people were behind you, how would you react to each?

The first one is a Caucasian, male, biker in full regalia, covered with tattoos, wearing dark sunglasses and has a scowl on his face.  The second is a well-groomed, middle-aged, African American man in a suit on a phone call.  The third person is a young, Caucasian man listening to music in headphones, dressed in the latest Hip Hop fashion, baggy pants, ball cap, sunglasses, and lots of bling.  The fourth person is an elegant Hispanic woman in a business suit.  The fifth person is a Caucasian woman dressed in a maid uniform.

What if you changed their race, age, ethnicity, gender, or clothing?  Would your reaction be different?

What comes into your mind when I say the following?:

Female project manager

Minority Contractor

African American Male Project Executive

Indian Female Structural Engineer

Chinese Male Plumbing Contractor

Female Engineer

Pakistani Male Estimator

Grey-haired Engineer

Are there positive and negative generalizations and stereotypes that come into your mind?

How do these mental models affect your interactions with these folks?  Have you generalized to the point where you don’t give the individual a fair shake?

Our course on diversity and inclusion explores these mental models and biases and gives you tools to be able to overcome them. And if you want even more resources on emotional intelligence and all of the critical people skills your folks need to succeed, click here  for information on our online courses called The Total Leadership Library.

If you want more free information and resources, download my white paper that includes two of my bestselling books and another white paper on how to build the people before you build the project.  It will give you the tools you need to make your next project a huge success!  Click here to download the white paper.  

 


Are You a Racist?

July 19, 2017

When I made a lunch date with an African American friend of mine, she told me to meet her at 12:00 noon CPT.  For those of you who don’t know what CPT is, you can Google it.  This refers to the cultural stereotype that African Americans tend to show up late.  Is this racist?  I submit to you that it is not.  First, let’s go through some definitions.  Stereotypes are assumptions made about a group of people that is not based on personal experience.  Generalizations are assumptions made about a group of people that is based on personal experience.  Because you have that experience, you have a tendency to generalize a certain characteristic about everyone in that group.  Take a look at the following clip from the movie, Up in the Air:

From the movie, Up in the Air

The young person in the clip tells George Clooney’s character that his stereotyping of people in line for airport screenings is “racist”.  He says he learned from his mother to stereotype because it is “faster”.  Is he racist?  Would the line with people with children, older people, and people who look Middle Eastern have moved slower?  Does this justify his stereotyping? He doesn’t hate these people because of who they are, he has simply learned from past experience which line usually moves the quickest.

I have been exploring these issues over the past year during the creation of my latest online course on diversity and inclusion in the AEC (Architecture/Engineering/Construction) industry.  The basis of this course is that we all have biases.  All of us.  Without exceptions.  Based on our past experiences, our upbringing, where we are from, our social networks, our religious background, and our world view, we all have biases.  The course focuses on recognizing those biases and doing our best to overcome them. And having biases does not necessarily make you racist or misogynist or misandrist or homophobic.

You can determine your unconscious biases by taking various IATs (Implicit Association Test).  It’s available online for many different groups including African American, Muslims, and women.  Through your response times for incongruent photos and associations, the test determines if you have unconscious bias.  Google Project Implicit IAT to take these tests.  It is a good place to start recognizing your unconscious biases.  This is the first step.

The second step is to start having these meaningful discussions around race and gender and other stereotypes and generalizations.  I have been teaching these diversity and inclusion classes in a live format and one common response from the mostly white male audience is that they “don’t see color”.  I’m sure they are trying to be nice and I’m sure they are sincere.  The only issue is that this type of response shuts down the dialogue that needs to be spoken.  A young African American male in the AEC industry can have a very different experience than a young Caucasian male. A female project manager can have a very different experience than a male.  We need to explore these experiences, better understand them, and have some of those difficult discussions about race and gender.  If you are offended by something or having a difficult time because of another’s bias, it is your duty to let this person know, allow them to correct the behavior, move on, and continue to grow through these experiences.

Stay tuned for more discussion on diversity and inclusion in future blogs.

If you want to take a look at this course and the other courses in our Total Leadership Library, click here or email me and I will send you some free demo license keys.

Also, for a free white paper on project success that includes two of my books and another white paper, go to brentdarnell.com/whitepaper

 


Shatter Stereotypes, Create More Diversity, Save the World

June 25, 2015

Featured image

“Along with the evidence of common sense, researchers have proven scientifically that humans are all one people. The color of our ancestors’ skin and ultimately my skin and your skin is a consequence of ultraviolet light, of latitude and climate. Despite our recent sad conflicts here in the US, there really is no such thing as race. We are one species—each of us much, much more alike than different. We all came from Africa. We all are of the same stardust. We are all going to live and die on the same planet, a pale blue dot in the vastness of space. We have to work together.” Bill Nye, the Science Guy

I was walking down the street the other day and saw something I had never seen before.  It was an Asian couple with two very white, Caucasian daughters.  Stereotype turned on its head.  Paradigm shifted.  It made me think about my own prejudices and biases (conscious and unconscious) based on lots of things:  how I was raised (in the Southern USA), the media (and how they portray women and minorities), my education, my spiritual path, and the industry I grew up in (construction). I’m sure all of those things shape my world view.  So what can we all do to address these inherent biases?

LOSE THE RACE!

Did you know that the concept of race is totally arbitrary?  The original concept of race:  Caucasoid, Negroid, Mongoloid was a social classification based on physical characteristics, not biological ones.  They could have just as easily chosen foot size, eye color, or cranium diameter.  And these physical classifications of race were ultimately used to stereotype groups of people in order to control and manipulate them.

When scientists mapped the human genome, they found that we are 99.9% alike in our DNA.  One tenth of one percent of our DNA accounts for ALL of our differences.  Wow!  That’s a pretty small percentage.  We are far more alike than we are different.  Remember that in all your encounters with other human beings.

CULTIVATE LOVE AND COMPASSION!

Let’s cultivate love and compassion for all: all religions, all philosophies, all victims, all perpetrators, all human beings. It’s the only thing that will ultimately stop the madness.

The harrowing tragedies of late in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charleston make us all think about these issues of race.  The media mostly portrays the conflict in terms of race, which fuels that fire of difference and further separates us.

When John Stewart interviewed Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner.  The Taliban shot her in the head for speaking out for women’s rights and education. John Stewart asked her how she reacted when she learned that the Taliban wanted her dead. Here is her response:

“I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

What if we all cultivated that attitude?

WHOA-MAN!

The male/female divide is also interesting.  Did you know that we all start out as women? The sex hormones that are released well into development are what causes us to be men instead of women.  So we are already developing as women prior to this influx of male hormones. So the presence of males on the planet may just be a genetic aberration (tongue planted firmly in cheek).

There are male/female differences.  Our brains are different.  We are wired differently. The corpus callosum, the bridge that connects the right and left sides of the brain is thicker in female fetuses than in male fetuses. Young girls are better with language and fine motor skills. Young boys are better with spatial skills.  Women are faster and more accurate at identifying and controlling strong emotions such as anger and aggression.  These are all brain hard wiring facts.

So what does this all mean?  I’m not naive enough to think that we can all love each other and just get along.  Maybe that’s the real key.  To show true compassion and understand these two fundamental things:  that we are completely different and that we are 99.9% alike.  If we could hold those two concepts in our heads and know that most of us want simple things such as to love and be loved and to have a nice life (safe and free) with family and friends, we could make some changes in this world.  And make no mistake.  It starts with every single individual.  Sow love, not hate.