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There’s More to Folks than Meets the Eye: The Price of Thinking in Simplistic Terms

Posted by Didi Gorman on

By Didi Gorman

Didi Gorman, Wise Choice Market's blog writer

Many of us have a tendency to make all sorts of assumptions about other people.

Often though, those assumptions are wrong.

Then we realize the person is different from the image we’ve had of them, and we find ourselves disconcerted by this discrepancy.

My premise in this essay is that all too often, we draw conclusions about other people based on very little knowledge about them (we know their gender and ethnicity, for example, but not much else), resulting in an over-simplistic, flat image of them, devoid of nuance and depth – almost akin to a stereotype. We’re oblivious to the subtleties of their actual reality, and this ignorance is hurtful.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at our assumptions about immigrants.

Unless you’re an immigrant yourself, it’s quite likely you assume that immigrants from the same country or of the same ethnicity would form a natural bond with one another. While this might be true for many, it may not be true for ALL. Yet, by boxing all immigrants of one ethnicity into a single category, we overlook significant details.

A couple of years ago I watched an interview with two new immigrants to the States.

With the help of an interpreter, the two young men explained why they had fled their native countries: one was gay; the other had just converted to a different religion – both serious offences in their countries of origin. As a result, both were fearful for their safety, even here, in the United States, because of the possibility of reprisal by other immigrants from the same countries. (Apologies for omitting the specifics but we’ll have to leave it at that.)


Sure is. Were you aware of this type of reality, by the way?

Fair chance many of us were not. I, for one, was unsettled when I watched that interview.

But let’s move on.

Still on wrong assumptions about immigrants: How many of us, upon hearing an immigrant’s foreign accent, make certain assumptions about their intelligence (usually to their detriment)?

If the concept of prejudice or insensitivity pops into your mind now, hold that thought.

We’ll leave the immigrants in peace for now, and zero in on another demographic. Let’s look at what happens when superficial assumptions translate into a form of intolerance. Heads up, we’ll be touching on an off-limits subject here.

I’ve recently watched an interview with a criminologist, specializing in the subfield of abuse towards adult men (psychological, physical, and sexual). It turns out, it’s more common than we think.

How come we hardly ever hear of it?

The short answer is that it rarely gets reported.

Now for the long answer, and this is a crucial point: Studies show that attempts by male victims to report, or even just talk about abuse towards them, are often met with such stigmatization and shaming, that they simply prefer not to bring it up at all.

Our society is still toxically stuck in the ‘Boys don’t cry’ axiom. Heaven forbid, should a man shed tears, ask for help, or express vulnerability!

No wonder male victims prefer to keep silent.

Our society has this aversion to blurred lines and ambiguity. We rigidly cling to fixed, cut and dried, familiar (and shallow) ‘boxes’, and resent anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into those boxes. Men who are victims of abuse do not match our collective image of ‘masculinity’. We punish them for this “transgression” by mocking them, instead of offering them the support they deserve.

I find this infuriating!

But our discomfort with ambiguity doesn’t stop with gender. Remember our convert?

To his surprise, his conversion had mostly earned him distrust. (From followers of his new religion, that is. Apologies again for omitting the details.)

What gives?

Ah, yes. He had crossed from one box to another, blurring the lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – a tough one for us to swallow.

Back to our immigrants now, for we apply the same simplistic logic towards them: We often consider an immigrant as ‘belonging to two places at the same time’ – an ambiguity which confuses us. We’re uncomfortable with the idea that a person can be ‘a bit of both’; we kind of want them to ‘pick sides’.

It would do us enormous good to accept that people are much more complex and intricate than the superficial image we try to assign them.

There are many shades of gray in-between the black and white, if I’m to conclude with a cliché; and gray, mind you, is a legit color.