Stereotypes are reductions of the human experience and as reductions they cannot fully embody the diversity of experience brought by all individuals to our common culture. If “a pattern of stereotypes is not neutral” it must be biased or polarized and therefore favoring a particular point of view or perspective (Lippman, 1956: 96). And therefore a level playing field is nearly impossible, but does this mean we do not attempt to bring all members into participation? How do we increase chances for meaningful, engagement for all? We must value and validate the experiences, identities, and perspectives of all members of this society. We must strive to provide equity which does not mean granting equal access to the same resources if some members already have a head start through unearned privilege. In order to dismiss and dismantle “the fortress of our tradition”, we must challenge the structures and rituals embedded within our culture which justify and maintain the status quo. (Lippman, 1956; 96)
These are my feelings and hopes for our culture, however, I struggle to find the words and actions in daily life to live this ideal. Personally, I do not like labels. I do not know which identifiers are appropriate to use when describing my neighbor, the ways she might describe herself, until I ask. If I ask and listen to her speak about her hopes, experiences, and challenges I will learn that she does not fit a stereotype, there is no single label to give her. But as a society do we have the opportunity to engage each other in these conversations and transcend stereotypes? I think I am a friendly person, but I find it difficult to bring down my defenses at times. I agree with Walter Lippman, but I also know it is difficult honor the spirit of my agreement.
Contemporary media systems provide reinforcement and also dismantling of stereotypes. In class today we discussed contemporary television and news media which has the potential to dismantle stereotypes. Yet, breaking down stereotypes requires viewers to be critical consumers of the content presented. Do we teach critical discernment of media? Are we doing a good job? Movies like “Crash”, “Gran Torino”, and “Grand Canyon” have called stereotypes into question through the examination of the lives and relationships of those directly impacted by our miseducation. Do these messages receive the depth of consideration necessary to affect social change? Or do television shows like “South Park”, “Family Guy”, “The Simpsons”, and “King of the Hill” present satire and contradictions above our heads? In order to resolve these contradictions and appreciate the satire on our own we must recognize them. Is this possible with limited opportunities to explore our views on conflicting ideologies? Further when point-counterpoint formats are presented; agendas and perspectives do not represent multiple sources of diversity. Real Time with Bill Maher examines primarily white, male perspectives on current issues with guests from the entertainment or legislative world offering their views. Finally, local media which is most accessible and relevant to all community members tends to communicate only surface level information and seldom examine the relationships, conflicts, and needs of individuals which are featured on the nightly news or daily paper.