Friday, September 25, 2015

The tyranny of stereotypes

Everybody knows what a native community looks like. Gas-sniffing juveniles, gang-banging teens, drunken adults passed out in public at high noon...

Well, not really.

Most native communities I've ever seen are virtually indistinguishable from their non-native neighbours. But we don't ever hear about them. That's just not news!

No, what we hear about are a few isolated and dysfunctional communities that provide 100% of the bad-news stories about natives.

Which is not to suggest that there isn't much to be done, but the big picture is not nearly as bleak as you might assume after reading a few mainstream stories about our native brothers.

And Mexicans. They'll be the ruin of America, God help us all...

No less an authority than Donald Trump has given Latinophobia a new lease on life. I know for a fact that Mexicans are prized among Canadian employers of Temporary Foreign Workers for their honesty and their work ethic. Could that be because the Darwin effect strands all the unmotivated lazy and shifty ones south of the 49th parallel?

Seems unlikely.

While there's no question that a few bad apples come over in the barrels of both legal and not-so-legal Latinos, you can't deny the contribution they've made to America.

In fact, I've got Mexicans in my very own extended family. Back in the day my dear Uncle Jack and his wife, who were as middle-America as apple pie, after having a couple of kids of their own, adopted a number three from Mexico.

That kid from Mexico had his chance at the American Dream and batted it out of the park. The company he created has been voted one of the best employers in his state.

And we're not talking landscaping; we're talking high-end social services.

He's a success story that's done nothing but contribute to his local community, and every one of the 150 plus professionals who work for him are Americans.

Like Pope Francis said the other day, most of us were foreigners at one time... let's not be so quick to judge foreigners.

That's why I'm a little suspicious of stories like this. Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Finland are allegedly turning up their noses at Finnish hospitality and high-tailing it back to Sweden.

Let's look at the stereotypes being promoted here; Syraqi refugees are fussy ingrates just looking for the best deal on welfare payments etc. We should not rush to judgement on the verity of their refugee claims.

The story appears at Arab News, a news site financed by Saudi Arabia. It is sourced from France 24, the web portal of France's AFP news conglomerate.

Both France, which has been working overtime to dissuade refugees from arriving there, and Saudi Arabia, which has been working overtime at creating refugees in Iraq and Syria, have a vested interest in portraying these refugee throngs as opportunists looking for an easy life in the EU.

And so the stereotype of the Middle East refugee as shifty malingerer takes root, at least among that segment of the population predisposed to think that way in the first place.

I have no doubt that a few shifty malingerers among those refugees will be exposed in the fullness of time. And when they are, they'll get an inordinate amount of attention in our media. But, there were no doubt a few of those shifty malingerers among the European immigrants who flooded into America post WW II.

So the point is, you'll always be able to find a story or two to justify the stereotypes.

But the truth of the matter lies elsewhere.

We need to remember that we were indeed, most of us, foreigners at one time.

And we have to get past the stereotypes.

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