Stereotypes versus political correctness

My husband and I discussed the concept of stereotypes with the kids.  What we were trying to get through to them is that it’s wrong to take ideas about a group, even if those ideas are complimentary or accurate, and to assume that they apply to an individual.  The mere fact that Jews tend to have higher IQs doesn’t automatically mean that Joe Schmostein is smart.  On the other side of the balance, merely because blondes are the butt of myriad dumb blonde jokes still means it’s a huge mistake to assume that a given blonde is dumb.  (And, Z, because you’re very literal, let me say here that I realize that dumb blonde jokes are just that — jokes — but they’re still a useful rhetorical tool for discussing stereotyping.)

What both my husband and my children had a problem with was that, while it’s wrong to apply stereotypes to individuals, and while it’s wrong to perpetuate lies about an entire group to satisfy ones biases (e.g., those dumb blondes), that doesn’t make it at all invalid to look at group behavior and draw conclusions about the group.  If the numbers show that Chinese people consume more rice more capita than other people (I’m guessing here, but it sounds reasonable), the existence of this data means that this statement isn’t a stereotype, it’s a fact.  That fact’s existence doesn’t mean that any individual Chinese person should be assumed to like rice (ask first before serving), but it does mean that there is an operating truism about the group.

Mr. Bookworm’s confusion about stereotypes versus factual data about a defined group became apparent when the conversation in the car turned to war atrocities (my children are at the ghoulish phase), and my son raised the subject of genital mutilation.  In a previous ghoulish conversation, I’d told him that the Japanese, during the Rape of Nanking, subjected women to genital mutilation as part of their torture and murder.  I then mentioned that Arabs are well-known for castrating their enemies.

My husband was outraged:  “That’s a stereotype!”  “No,” I said, “in terms of the cultural norms of warfare, that’s a fact.  I’m not saying that all Arabs slice off their enemies’ penises.  I’m just saying that it is a typical and traditional Arab approach to war.”  He subsided, unconvinced.

I doubt even this horrific story will cut through his PC, multi-culti world view to convince him:

Devotedly washed and sprinkled with rose petals, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb lies prepared for burial.

But the rituals of death cannot wipe away the horrific injuries that have mutilated his body almost beyond recognition.

Nor do they blot out that Hamza – riddled with bullets, kneecapped and with neck broken and penis hacked off – has the rounded cheeks and gentle face of a child.


The teenager’s family were told not to speak of his terrible fate. But in a pitiful act of defiance, they posted the footage of his corpse online.


An unseen attendant tenderly shifts the scarred limbs and head so that the viewer can see each injury, including two bullets which were fired through each arm and then entered his chest.

‘Look at the evidence of his torture,’ the narrator urges. ‘Take a look at the bruises on his face and his neck that was broken. Take a look at the bruises on his right legs

‘In addition there is worse. They did not satisfy themselves with all the torturing so they cut off his genitals.’

Savage cultures do savage things, and all the multi-culti pieties in the world won’t erase the fact that the savage Muslim/Arab culture is committed to male genital attacks as a sign of power.