A note of warning before we commence. A number of people might find this offensive; it would sting some and annoy some. Regardless of how you feel, take the lesson and remember that I’m writing because I care. No beef, fish or malice intended. 🙂
What is a stereotype? I’m sure the word is pretty familiar, but follow me a little please. Wiki says “it is a thought that may be adopted about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things.” So for instance, all Igbo people love money, and they would do just about anything to get it! That’s something we all know right? It is a thought that has been adopted about Igbo people in Nigeria and mind you, more than half of the time, it has proven to be true! So that is one stereotype. This is a long journey, I crave your indulgence, please stay with me.
Now we have a basic understanding of the term so I would go on from here and begin to tackle the matter at hand as best as I can so I don’t offend too much and you’re able to totally get my point.
In Nigeria today, several stereotypes exist; especially for most of the ethnic groups. We have seen that of the Igbos. That of the Yorubas is that they are dirty. I have heard that statement several times. Yorubas are dirty and quarrelsome. Hausas are lazy, really lazy. And the latest one which I heard only yesterday, Okene people are wicked. Now I’m going to do my best to write as objectively as possible. But before we go on, let me add something that Wiki also said about stereotypes; “that belief may or may not accurately reflect reality.” So there’s a chance, a possibility that your thoughts on a particular group may not be accurate. What am I saying? The truth is; no matter how “accurate” a stereotype might seem, there are always exceptions. The problem with us human beings is that because the stereotype makes it “simple” for you to assess a person, you just go with it. By doing that, you make an unhealthy assumption about whoever it is you are dealing with. People are too lazy to take the pains of knowing someone for themselves, going through the process of discovering someone, they just go with the flow; “oh, he’s an Igbo man, they are known to be money conscious and deceitful when it comes to business so I wouldn’t do business with him!” Interesting thing is that, he might have been just the one Igbo man that would not have duped you.
Every single time, I look around me, I see people caught up in the stereotype, imprisoned in it, so lost that they are almost beyond salvation. To them, every single one person in a group is the same and so they judge and most times misjudge and miss out on what would have been the best relationships, partnerships or opportunities they would have ever had. Now here is where it gets really interesting and I’ll be certain to step on toes because I will go all out and give practical examples.
In my second year in the University, I was getting pretty close to a particular girl (not in a weird manner o, keep your hearts pure! :D) and we were fast becoming best friends. She is Yoruba and I am Igbo. And someone else who is Yoruba called her and told her not to be friends with me because I was Igbo and Igbo girls were known to be selfish and dangerous! My word! What have I not heard?! What they did not know was that my friend had more wisdom than they did and so she ignored the advice. And that was not the only time that sort of incidence occurred. A number of people actually kept their distance from her because of me, in the hope that it would “bring her back to her senses” but she never gave in. Well, I forgave their lack of knowledge but so much for being the “dangerous” one, ask my bestie today and she’ll tell you how I have been more of a blessing to her than anyone else she has ever met! Not a sense of pride, merely stating things as they are.
I walked into a conversation yesterday where a number of people were conversing about Okene people being wicked, Igbo people being crazy about money and Yoruba people being dirty and I was just weak. Seriously? And we keep “fighting for national integration! Way to be patriotic! At the end of that argument, it was clear to me that one of the parties was really hurt, especially when some other person would not stop hitting at what she thought was the “truth.” Truth or not, it was a stereotype, he was being judged based on it and it was offensive.
When my father first told his parents that he wanted to marry my mother, here’s what his people had to say. “You cannot marry her, she’s from Anambra state and Anambra women never stay in their husbands houses.” Well, thankfully, my mother cooked her way out of that one. She and my dad have been happily married for close to thirty years now and my mother has not gone anywhere. If my dad had just conformed to what he was told and acted based on the information at his disposal, I wouldn’t be here now writing this.
Another interesting one is this; “women who are more educated or more successful than their husbands or who even earn more than he does will not be submissive and so a man should not marry a woman who is more educated or more successful than himself.” Hmmn. Where do I start? I feel that is just silly. But I can only see it that way because that is not who I am. But when I think of other women out there who became tyrants to their husbands because of the aforementioned factors, I can scarcely blame the men that marry wives and convert them to full time housewives so that their roles as the “head” will not be jeorpardized. I know a lady who left her husband and children because she had attained some positions. She’s in the judiciary and in truth, she ended up being a severe pain in the tooth for everyone she has had to work with after that. But my point still remains, not all career women are like that.
All Hausa people are lazy and yet one of the world’s richest men is Dangote. Uhh… Maybe I’m the one missing it but Dangote is from the northern part of Nigeria right? Well, if that’s how you define laziness, I’d like to indulge in it o! Ok!
Stereotypes exist, no doubts about that. Often time, they are true; no questions on that either but ask me and I’ll tell you to treat people on an individual basis, the same way you would want them to treat you. Granted, some people are so caught up in the stereotype that they fail to distinguish themselves positively and I’m talking about the group of people who have been stereotyped and keep acting accordingly. Such people make it extremely difficult for one to be objective.
For instance, on several occasions, I’ve been told to “fear” the guys who seem to be the most “Christian” and the most “spiritual”. The reason I was given was “most” Christian guys are merely pretenders. It’s twisted isn’t it? But sadly, it is true. A good number of the Bible-quoting, tongue-speaking “Christian brothers” are nothing to write home about. I should know, I “dated” one for about two years. He was so good; I thought we were headed for the altar. I knew father, mother, siblings, friends… Unfortunately, I was not the only one. I was sharing him with a few others. At the end of the day, he said “did I ever officially ask you out?” I could have shot myself! Tell me, honestly why I should not fear the average guy who claims to be Christian and all spiritual?
No sentiments anyways, this happened a while ago and I’m back in shape. I’ve been sceptical about “Christian” guys since then anyways, but I can tell you boldly that they aren’t all like that. I know a decent one. But my point is; when you lose yourself in the stereotype and fail to be your own person in a good way; you make it difficult and almost impossible for people to be objective when dealing with you and then you also make it difficult for people to be objective when dealing with others that belong to your group.
Anyone could have been born into a particular ethnic group, anyone could find themselves in a particular place; people do not choose to insert themselves into a particular stereotype so they should not pay for something they are unaware of. Same way you should not use the stereotype as an excuse to be irresponsible. Take responsibility for yourself and your actions! It is not the way you are, neither is it the way your people are. If it is a flaw, it can be corrected.
There are so many stereotypes I could have dealt with but this post would have been unnecessarily long. I have finally come to the end of it. The lessons are simple. Do not let yourself be imprisoned in the stereotype either as the prisoner (member of the group being stereotyped) or the warden (person judging others based on a stereotype). Be yourself, get better every day, build capacity and encourage others to do same.
End of rant! If I have offended you or struck a nerve, no apologies. Oops! Truth remains truth whether you like it or not. 😀 Do have a nice time and don’t forget to re-read so you can digest properly, comment and share. If you have counter-opinions or something to add, by all means please do. Cheers 🙂
Yours always, Yougeecash