Stereotypes need to be challenged

Whilst reading a few Blogs I came across a fascinating one regarding personal identity. It reminded me of the time a few years back when I attended a meeting in Poole (Dorset, England, UK) – Probably in the mid 90s.

Just some background, I was born in London and my father was one of the early migrants to the UK in 1958. I am a Sikh.

Back to the story – I had spent 2 hours in the car from London. I parked in the giant car park of a bank I was attending to talk to this potential client about an international project.

I proceeded to the main desk situated in the middle of a giant glass roofed atrium. The receptionist turned to me and asked me who I wished to see. I replied with her name. Her expression suddenly changed to a shock or alarm or wonder. She suddenly declared – ‘You’re not supposed to talk like that!’ – She was implying that I should have spoken in a stereotypical accented manner – not that there is anything wrong with talking with an accent – the ability to communicate in any tongue is an accomplishment. My only reply was to explain that quite a few generations were now in the UK and that Peter Sellers, the comedian had not done anyone any favours by planting an unfortunate vocal stereotype.

The story shows that unfortunately in this day and age assumptions can be made about a person just on first glance. I have a Sikh friend who has an amazing broad Glaswegian (from Glasgow) accent – although since being in the South of the UK for a while he had lost some of it.

Since 9/11 much has been done to address the need to respect all communities. After 6 years we still face the challenges of ignorance. When you look at the unfortunate events of 9/11 there were so many international victims – I remember a picture of the wives of many of the victims. They were pregnant at the time of their partner’s death but had since given birth. They were of many different denominations. I just feel we need to remember that we are one world – we may all look different but our hearts beat to the same beat – to life – to live and to support each other.

Fighting Stereotypical attitudes:

Use of language is not just refined to audio, as the written word is something we must also be aware of. How many authors are there that can reflect the true sense of real-life? Often we have to put up with some cravers of sensationalist headlines. We need to be aware that language can also be institutionalised, for example use of adjectives and assumptions of society view-points. Visual stereotyping is something that I have also written about in the past (Bollywood betrays). In many cases TV and movies do not help.

There are some solutions but they need investment with commitment. We need TV, radio and newsprint channels that seek to bridge communication lines (Developed by Sikhs). They need to be distinct, accurate and politically free. We need to respect our heritage and communicate its lessons. We need good role models. We need clear and concise commentary – showing intellectual debate on issues. We need to show the essence of what Sikhs really are – Believing in our fundamental principles, for example: Human Rights, Equality, and Honest living…

Building such a communications environment is a strong contributor to destroying stereotypes and establishing truth.

Categories: 2006

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