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Chima Onyewuchi: Fighting Stereotypes

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It is a new year and a lot of things have changed but some things have not. One is how very stereotypical we human beings are. Whenever we don’t have a good understanding of a subject, say, of people or countries, we tend to make assumptions about them. Stereotype is nothing but those assumptions that have become common knowledge. Whenever you make judgments about people without getting to know them, you are stereotyping them. Stereotyping makes people generalize things. More often than not, they are all false assumptions. Though there are both positive and negative stereotypes, a majority of them are offensive.

People generally stereotype out of bias against a particular group of people or religion. Stereotyping becomes a way of conveying their dislike. Of course, stereotyping comes from a commonly held view of a particular group or tribe. This view may arise from an incident or false assumption, and then maybe used to color the entire tribe/nationality/gender with the same brush. There are various types of stereotypes. However, the most common ones are tribal/racial stereotypes and gender stereotypes.

I have heard annoying statements such as; “Igbo boys like money”, “Yoruba’s like parties”, “Calabar people like sex”, “Yoruba boys will always cheat”, “Igbo boys know how to take care of their women”, “light skinned boys are rude”, “Muslims are wicked”, “light skinned girls are proud”, “UNILAG babes sleep around”, “Indians are cunny, etc.. The list is endless. We are all fond of using these stereotypes to judge people even before we take time to know them. We are quick to jump on a band wagon and judge people once we know their tribe, religion, complexion, nationality, etc. I think this is very wrong especially when we make important decisions based on such statements. When we stereotype people, we prejudge them; we assume that all people in a group have the same traits. This form of blind categorization leads to false assumptions about people and causes misunderstandings, hostility, abusive behaviors, conflicts, discrimination, and prejudice.

Some people have decided not to hire a particular person just because he/she is from a particular tribe, nationality or gender. Same way some have decided not to date or marry people from a certain tribe or nationality because of some silly stereotype about people from that tribe or nation. A lot of us have built walls around ourselves based on these stereotypes. The most popular these days is the constant bashing of Yoruba boys on social media. Truth be told I feel very sorry for my Yoruba brothers, most especially the good ones. They are labelled as cheats who will always date more than one woman. I have met a lot of fantastic and faithful Yoruba men who are nothing but caring and loyal to their partners. Same way I have met calabar girls who are not really into sex (story for another day). So we can safely agree that there are always a lot of exceptions to these stereotypes so why then are we quick to judge a person’s character even before we get to know them. Very recently I met a lady who told me “oh you are Igbo, I know you like money… All igbo people like money”. She had only known me for let’s say 30 minutes tops and she had already decided that I like money and by the way, who doesn’t like money? That’s right, no one.

To conclude this, it is crucial to remember that civil societies can only thrive when damaging stereotypes are broken down. The difficulty is that stereotypes are sometimes hard to recognize because they are fixed beliefs. We all stereotype and are all subject to being stereotyped by others. The stereotypes we use can be both positive and negative. The negative ones, though, have more devastating consequences. We need to become aware of the stereotypes we have so we can see people for who they really are. Stereotypes should never ever influence the way we deal with or treat others.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Chima studied Demography & Social Statistics at Obafemi Awolowo University and currently works as business analyst in a leading online marketplace. He loves music and is a part-time DJ. You can find him on Instagram @chiwuzy and twitter @_wuzy_

10 Comments

  1. Dr. N

    January 29, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    I was waiting to hear how to get rid of the stereotypes…….
    Besides that, well-written.

  2. A Real Nigerian

    January 29, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    C’mon! Stereotyping is fun.
    I mean we all know south-southerners are mostly ignorant couch potatoes who only go out to drink and commit crimes while they wallow in underdevelopment despite sitting on crude oil.
    We know the northerners are radical, largely illiterate people who have no respect whatsoever for women.
    And also that the typical igbo man is a fraudulent, insensitive, lying con artist who is still bitter about Biafra.
    And the Yorubas, oh my. Dirty, cocky, loud people who have inflated images of themselves and their average ethnic group.
    It’s just fun. Why do people have to be so serious about stereotyping? It’s just for laughs, not like anybody takes it seriously, right?

  3. A Real Nigerian

    January 29, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Stereotyping is fun. Why fight it?
    The author of this article must be a grade-A killjoy.

  4. Kimani

    January 29, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    You really are a troll aren’t you?

  5. Author Unknown

    January 30, 2016 at 12:04 am

    LOL at A Real Nigerian.

    Stereotyping will never go away. It almost seems to me like an inherent human trait, though a potentially dangerous one. What’s important is for people to be more comfortable in their skin. You really think Yoruba men are losing sleep over “Yoruba Demon”? It’s not that serious Chima.

  6. Ahimsa

    January 30, 2016 at 3:25 am

    It’s hard ignoring some stereotypes .. As for the Yoruba demon… Well I tried ignoring family n friends .. They wouldn’t shut up about the cons of being involved with a Yoruba man.. But when all 3 situationship carry k leg.(one went home to marry, one had a gf who was pregnant n told me was a cousin… Or d one who almost stole from me!! lol I tire abeg.. )You begin to wonder …

  7. Ada

    January 30, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Well I’m sorry China I almost slept off while reading this.
    1. Calabar ppl liking sex is like a joke stereotype we use to tease them same goes for Ibo’s and money. U shld have played up racism and tribalism instead of random in-house tribe ‘tease’.

  8. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    January 30, 2016 at 8:05 am

    A little stereotype is good. We do this everyday and not just with people and speaking from the context which you have discussed, there is more than an element of truth in the stereotype. It is never wise to meet someone without this predispositions in mind. What is foolish is to hold on to them at all cost and not knowing that you can relearn a people through a person.

  9. skimo

    January 30, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    I hear Chimamanda Adichie’s speech on “‘The danger of a single story’ .

  10. AuntyWura

    February 4, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Stereotypes!!more often than not it breaks ones’ self confidence,it causes low self-esteem , you find yourself constantly trying to get out of that “Zone”.

    I try as much as possible not to generalize a group of people based on my judgement or some wrong deed by one or two people in that group! its just plain ridiculous to do so ….maybe I say this because I have been on the receiving end aha!

    I am associated with a lot ,In the past I fought, got upset, would go quiet for days re=enacting what led to that comment in my head, judge myself — did I exhibit this behaviour?? , start looking deep to see if this stereotype is indeed true but now I have gotten to the level where I make a joke out of it and put you on my low priority list instantly, in my mind I have judged you ehn! To me it shows lack of tact, your level of knowledge and you been totally insensitive in dealing with others.

    I get tired been defensive so these days I either say it before you do or just give a blank stare after the words are spilled.

    On a regular this is me

    Before you say typical UNILAG girl : I say “awa omo unilag”
    Before you call me fat : I ask you to leave enough space for two!
    Before you say I have Yoruba accent : I use “yelz” and integrate the h-factor intentionally to every word!
    Before you say muslim- terrorist : i just say “yes oo we boko haram people”

    The list is endless!

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