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Friday, January 13, 2012

Learning From A Sting

I have not ever...
* Been followed in a mall, harassed by a police officer, or asked to "speak for" others because of my race
* Been hounded by a boss for a date or looked over my shoulder in a parking garage because of my sex
* Struggled to get into a restaurant or had a server ask others "what will he have?" because of a disability
* Been hesitant to discuss my romantic relationships in any context because of my sexual orientation

Being a straight white man with no disabilities has allowed me to avoid many unpleasant, uncomfortable and ugly situations. But even us SWMs (w/no disability) have trouble avoiding the sting of stereotyping.

I was enjoying the give and take of a pleasant conversation with a new friend. After I spoke a bit about my work before I retired, suddenly I was  "...a State worker..." - exact words. Though I did not fully process this until I replayed the conversation later, the way those words were said made me feel my value had been somewhat diminished. That stung a little. My sting compared to the pain that can be inflicted by the examples listed above? Apples to dinosaurs. And in this case I didn't sense even a hint of malice in the stereotype. I like this person a great deal and don't plan on letting this interfere with the relationship. Still, it stung.

My takeaway? I'm renewing my own commitment to avoid stereotyping others. I've got a few groups I still struggle with; not "State workers" - I've known too many good ones. Suggested strategies to help me?

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