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Whio Says Ignorance Is Bliss?


Submitted By cuddles1035
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Who Says Ignorance is Bliss? Stereotypes are qualities or characteristics that are often assigned to a group based on their gender, race, sexual orientation and nameless other catagories. These assigned qualities or characteristics are usually exaggerated or distorted beliefs that we have labeled these groups with. We are all guilty of stereotyping, whether we do it consciously or subconsciously, we all at one time or another have taken part in it. There are three stereotypes that I have recognized in my own life and I now understand how my misconceptions and/or those of others may have had a negative effect on those who were erroneously characterized within these stereotypical labels. Convicts who are released and given their freedom never really experience total freedom. They will forever carry around the title of “ex-con”. Job applications, rental applications, and sometimes even credit applications will ask if the person has ever been convicted of a felony. They will also be asked why there is a lapse in work history or residence history. Once the person explains that they where incarcerated for a period of time, they are automatically looked at under a different light. It is assumed that they are not trustworthy and are just going to repeat their crimes. I myself was guilty of this until about five years ago. The management company I work for has strict rules when it comes to renting to someone who has been convicted of a felony. We are instructed to deny the application based on criminal history. Five years ago I had an older lady come into my office in need of an apartment. She was very honest about her past and had brought along with her all kinds of documentation recommending her and showing that she had turned her life around. I will admit that I admediately formed the opinion that she was untrustworthy and would bring nothing but trouble to my complex. I gave her a chance to show me her paperwork and I listened to her sales pitch, trying to sell me on the idea of renting to her. I could see she was desperate for a home and I promised that all I could do was pass on her paperwork to my boss and see what he had to say. I told her that I would inform him of everything she had stated to me and would contact her as soon as I heard something. Of course my boss is a very busy man and is hard to pin down for an answer. This elderly lady showed up at my office everyday like clockwork, checking on the status of her application. I finally received an answer from my boss and he said that he would leave it up to me if I felt that all of her documentation held any standing or not. I decided, after much deliberation, to give this lady a chance. I will admit that I was still very worried that she would fall back onto her old ways or that she would attract an unsavory crowd. She rented from me for the last five years, she was never late with her rent, her apartment was always kept immaculate and she never had anyone of a worrisome nature around. She became one of my best friends until her recent passing. Because of her my misconception of convicts has changed and I am so thankful to her for that. I never spent one day of regret for giving this elderly “ex-con” a chance. She paved the way for others who have changed their lives, others that in the past I may not have been able to rent too based on their criminal history now stand a better chance of finding an apartment here. Just because someone spent time in prison does not mean that they cannot change their ways, it does not mean that all of them are untrustworthy. As Bos and Dijksterhuis state “ we often make mistakes or fall prey to various biases” they go on to state that “ when we form impressions, we rely on shortcuts such as schemas or stereotypes; that is, we often judge a person on the basis of social category membership rather than on individual characteristics” (Bos and Dijksterhuis, 2011). I judged her in the beginning based on her social category of being an “ex-con” but I realize how wrong my first assumption was. The second stereotype that I experience on a daily basis is the old stereotype that blondes are not intelligent; some would call them “airheads”. My daughter is a blonde and at times can be guilty of being clumsy but she is far from being unintelligent. She has always been an “A” student and is currently one of the top students in her nursing class. She always makes the comment “what do you expect, I am blonde” whenever she makes a mistake or acts foolishly. She has stereotyped blondes and included herself in that category. I know that she does this, for the most part, jokingly but still one must wonder where this stereotype started. There is no definite answer as to where this stereotype came from, some say that it started with the image of the dumb blonde from decades ago portrayed in Hollywood movies, others say that it goes back as far as the Stone Age. There actually is no proof as to where it all began but only proof that it is far from true. Unfortunately the fair haired females suffer from this stereotype still today. They are often passed up for promotions or fail to receive pay raises based on the unfounded categorization of blondes being unintelligent. It is assumed that they lack the maturity to be management material and are to feminine and naive. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
This stereotype is a good example of an Ad Hominem Fallacy. Mosser states that “the conclusion is to be accepted or rejected because of the person (and the characteristics of that person) involved, rather than the actual argument, or reason(s), supporting the conclusion” (Mosser, 2011). Therefore if the decision is based on the characteristics of a person that it is falsely based. The final stereotype that I witness daily is the one that Hispanics are lazy and ignorant. Jones informs us that “Hispanics are perceived to be aggressive and lazy or cruel, pugnacious, and ignorant” she further states “ studies of self-perceptions of Hispanics suggest that, to some extent, Hispanics believe these negative stereotypes of themselves” (Jones, 2001). I hear comments by others regarding the Hispanic population in the area and I ignore these negative comments. I choose to base my opinions on the actual person not their ethnicity. I do see the truth in Jones’ statement that they tend to believe a lot of the negative stereotypes of themselves, every day I witness Hispanics accepting less-than, taking lower wages or not standing up for themselves because they do not think they are deserving. What a shame that society can influence people that way. I am thankful that over the past few years I have noticed my own fallacies and continue to improve upon myself and my beliefs. I am sure that I there are still some stereotypes that I may be guilty of subconsously holding but I know that with the knowledge I have gained during this course I am one step closer to doing away with those pre-conceived notions.

Bos, M., Dijksterhuis, A., 2011.Unconscious Thought Works Bottom-Up and Conscious Thought Works Top-Down When Forming an Impression. Social Cognition, Vol. 29, No. 6, pp. 727-737. Guilford Publications, Inc. Retrieved on March 19th, 2012.
Jones, M. 2001. Stereotyping Hispanics and Whites: Perceived Differences in Social Rolls as a Determinant of Ethnic Stereotypes. The Journal of Social Psychology, 131(4), 469-476. Retrieved on March 19th, 2012.
Mosser, K., 2011. Logic an Introduction. Bridgepoint Education, Inc. San Diego, CA. Retrieved on March 19th, 2012.

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