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Copy-Pasted Preconceptions

Leigh Alexander's picture

My friend has frequently told me that I’m “such a white girl.”  It seems that this bit of commentary always interrupts some paroxysm of laughter or is post some purchasing escapade, as though that is solely what a white girl does: laugh, buy things at Starbucks, and shop at Victoria’s Secret (activities that I, and quite a few other humans, happen to take part in). 

            What seems strange to me, is not that I should be called a “white girl” because, I am in fact a girl who happens to be white, but the use of the phrase “such a” or the word “typical” out of the mouth of someone I have known now for over eight years. 

            .  How can this person that I’ve spent so many years growing up with assert that I fall into a category of expression and mannerism with every other white female he’s met? I grew up, yes, as a white female in a predominately white small town, but because I “aw” at cute puppies and giggle when I’m happy, does that negate every other characteristic of mine?

            “Typical” sparks the notion of stereotypical categorizing.  For years I have convinced myself that the word “normal” is a fluke. What is normal when everyone on this planet is so dynamic? How can we assume that “we” (whomever that might be) are “normal” and “they” are the “abnormal” when we have no control group to compare ourselves to? History has birthed a bunch of people: throned, caged, crowned in thorns, and chained—which of those led a normal life? What kind of life breeds a person who would be considered normal? How would you even go about defining normal?

            I don’t believe there is such a thing. I believe it’s a thing that people tell themselves to comfort each other as they meander through life mapless. You compare your path, your journey, and what you’ve got in your pack with the gal next to you, and if it’s sort of the same then that becomes “the norm” for no other reason than the fact that it is comfortable for it to be such: comfortable to be “typical” instead of walking the line of originality and social abnormality.

            People stray away from this social abnormality. Those who stand out are more likely to be judged by their peers and opening oneself up to that social vulnerability is hardly something that the common person desires to do. People confine themselves to fads, they label themselves into religions, sexualities and political parties, and, in essence, they herd themselves into one congruous blob, stereotyping themselves into their own perception of “normality.”  This “safety in numbers” mindset is actually what breeds social stereotyping, and assumptions about a seemingly congruous mass are what effect the people involved.

            Would I ever have purchased Starbucks if my 7th grade best friend (also coincidentally a white girl) had never introduced me to the Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino?  Would I ever have considered buying underwear from Victoria’s Secret had all my friends not been flaunting theirs? I wandered my way into these overarching, stereotypical activities for my race and gender by following what my peers did. But does this mean that I’ve dehumanized myself, stripped myself of individuality and conformed to a cult-like existence?


No one asks to be stereotyped. Sometimes, people just like what they like. But this human comfort we find in grouping ourselves, I think, plays into our actual methods of stereotyping others.  If, we as humans find comfort in our herd-like mentality, who is to say that stereotyping isn’t some backwards way of including others in a herd of their own? Is it? We may never know.

            But, even if there is some subliminal good intent behind stereotyping our fellow humans, it is clear that it is not a widely accepted form of philanthropy. Although I can’t say that my research has been extensive, I will say that I’ve never read a paper that considered stereotypes as any benefit towards humanity, and, in my mind, this is rightly so.  Stereotypes certainly seem to do more damage than good, squelching the individuality of the masses, and taking away the details of our lives that give us individual value and purpose.

            Instead of venturing to engage with every other person who breathes, we lazy humans copy-paste our preconceptions of people based on the scant amount of social knowledge we have. We make assumptions, whether they be racial, sexual or gender-based, and we hastily sow the seeds we’ve stored in a hollow and near empty womb of thought, bequeathing ignorance as our gift to our children. And whose fault is that? Who are we to blame? Parents continually dating back to God Himself? Or should we assume that it was a manuscript lost somewhere along the way, and replaced with the largely ignored idiom of “don’t judge a book by its cover?”

            You see these concepts are so engrained in our beings that after generations of fighting to escape them, they lurk still, and they aren’t far in the shadows. For me personally, after eight years of being friends with someone, after eight years of making a show of my quirky habits, pet peeves, and oddballs traits, after every award ceremony, every college acceptance and rejection and every tear I shed in front of him of joy and of sadness, I’m still reduced to “such a typical white girl.”  

In this way, my personal perception of myself was tainted by a person I chose to surround myself with.  And more than that, I’ve found that, though I hate to admit it, I’m always trying to impress him, and always trying to prove to myself that I am more than what this one person deems as “typical,” whether he was joking or not.  There is, I think, a balance that must be carefully set between the identification of one’s self and one’s identification with the world around them.  Without the former, we are meaningless to ourselves and without the later, we are meaningless to all others. And how can we mean anything to ourselves without some bit of the world to reassure us of our value, or mean anything to the world without first proving that we have something of value to offer it?