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Social Media Discrimination Feeds on Misunderstanding

Updated on January 10, 2014

Deluding Ourselves with Stereotype and Blame - It Feeds At Night

Social Media can be a sad, but handy, funnel of ignorance, and at its worst, flagrant discrimination, as well a healthy source of relief and education.

Recently I read several online posts, reminiscences of 9/11 in response to an inquiry about how readers' lives have been changed by the event, on one platform, and event specific sharing elsewhere.

It saddens me greatly that the outrage of 9/11 has, in too many instances, morphed into a sympathetic understanding of why so many people blame a religion for what a group of criminals did,

It's not mostly blatant blame, rather, it more often resembles the bedrock on which a river flows, or the jute foundation holding the oriental carpet fibers together.

We stared transfixed at the horrific scenes on our TVs and took the pictures to bed with us behind the shades of our eyes. It's natural to want to cry out, possibly even natural to stretch the blame around as many people as possible, like a stereotype. But what is not normal or right is for a whole nation to institutionalize that right to fear, into bigotry and stereotyping.

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS © Leslie Sinclair --- All Rights Reserved --- DO NOT COPY

And that element of the public subconscious often manifests in a reference to the body of Muslims as an assembly of replicates, rather than as an assortment of individuals bonded by the 5 tenents of Islam, but in actuality as widely ranging in their beliefs as the members of other great religions.

In other words, it stereotypes us all as fiery red hot peppers.

Stereotypes Become Criminal As They Discriminate

It's criminal, both the horrendous events of that September day and the anesthetizing of our collective consciousness here in the land of the free. And in social media forums it also feels criminal - that freedom to extend the revulsion felt towards the gangster perpetrators to individuals and to an entire religion, as if we base our definitions on the worst elements of a congregation.

Let's Turn the Light on the Subject - don't let the darkness of night prevent us from seeing the problem

Back in the 50s the Target Groups were Foreigners and Minority Groups

and it wasn't right then either

During my upbringing in the 50s, time and again I heard older generations chatter on about Germans as if their common name was Adolf Aech The stereotype was damning, a declaration of guilt by birth.

Repetition by various adults in social gatherings inured us to the wrongs of speaking ill of others. People and media made fun of an entire island nation in jerky jingoistic caricatures and hilarious sounding nicknames. The terms slipped off our childhood tongues in games of warlike play, like rollicking nursery rhymes. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make those mean mocking sounds.

Karen Armstrong Lights Up This Topic - in a very readable way

I voiced concerns about the masses of Americans who continue to be subjected to bigotry because they belong to the religion claimed by the criminal hijackers.

And my beloved country, America, began a new era of institutionalizing bigotry against a new target group under the guise of guarding security, and a widening of the great religious divide we haven't seen the likes of since the Crusades.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Gaining an understanding of what it means to feel and express compassion towards others is a first step towards overturning stereotypes that discriminate.

As an American living in America on 9/11 I felt the shock and revulsion, the disbelief that in this land, where we felt so free and secure, such a devastating event could take place.

I share the narrative of the American citizen, if not literally (because I wasn't there on the ground in NYC), then empathically. I believe it. I ache for it.

And now I share a huge yearning quest for how to mend the rift in the hearts of my fellow countrypersons that fosters this current climate of fear.

Many organizations have formed alliances with others to undertake this challenge for healing, to teach our young to see beyond stereotypes.

Reviewers, 98 of them, rate Armstrong's book with 4.5 Stars. It might be something you'd like to give a chance to dwell in your heart.

 

The crimes were so awful and our security was powerless to protect the passengers and building occupants alike that it was quite normal to fear them. I did too, but I didn't want to make a career out of fear and hatred.

The Force of Our Fear Breaks Things - let's use it to break stereotypes

Not Really OK to Break Us Apart

The common theme on one forum seemed genuine, well meant, and cathartic, expressions of fear, outrage, resentment, caring and self sacrifice, on the part of the majority writers, the thrust of which still concerns me.

Woven quietly throughout all the threads lies an even greater concern than the evil that befell us twelve years ago. The inculcation into our society as a given, that it's OK to criticize Muslims and Islam by speaking of the whole religion in the worst sort of stereotype, pains me

Let's Wash Away the Stereotypes that Separate Us - let's string the metaphor of many colors into beautiful strands of respect

It's not mostly blatant blame, rather, it more often resembles the bedrock on which a river flows, or the jute foundation holding the oriental carpet fibers together.

Karen Armstrong Puts Fundamentalism in Perspective

My introduction to the writer came when I read The Spiral Staircase in 2000 or at least prior to 2001. I was surprised to find that it was easily accessible and full of color.

Karen Armstrong walks the reader up the staircase of her life of discovery and discernment in an engaging manner. She writes about religions without bias and with a generosity of spirit that's sadly lacking in many contemporary books on faith.

The Battle for God
The Battle for God

As every religion has its share of fundamentalists, we might calmly assess that it's not so remarkable that religious zealots are equal range opportunists.

As we shed light on some truths and break up stereotypes we may credit Karen Armstrong for providing a spotlight that reigns in the terror of ignorance.

 

It's a Bit of a Climb to Find Clarity Above the Stereotypes

Maybe We Can Celebrate Reconciliation

Our tendency is to recall the devastation of horrific events and that seems right and natural.

Gradually, we may help others' wounds diminish

as we coat our personal wounds in compassion

knowing pain is pain

and loss is loss!

We Don't Always Have to Bite the Apple

Do These Points Make Sense? Do You Have Suggestions? Please Share Your Comments Here

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    • EpicEra profile image

      EpicEra 3 years ago

      Well said. The way I see it, it is government participation in terrorist activity that was the cause of 911 and the reason for ongoing war. It seems the people could look to the global perception of their country's government in order to better assess what kind of danger the general public is in.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @EpicEra: The problem with associating Muslims with 9/11, as I perceive it, is that the perpetrators were criminals who claimed to be Muslim, therefore are claimed to represent the whole religion. But we would never blame a tiny percentage of XYZ different religion for the horrific acts of a few - or even for reprehensible acts of many, even in high leadership, on the religion itself. Nor would we believe that all XYZ believers are commanded to act in reprehensible ways. For many vocal Westerners especially, unfamiliar with the religion, everything about Islam is different. And for many, fear is the natural reaction to what can be seen as odd (threatening), and fear is contagious.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Nice lens, saw it featured on Nice lens, saw you featured on IMMINENT! The âNightfallâ Highlight Reel

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks. Sometimes every critical thing seems to be magnified during the night.

    • Minoru10 profile image

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      I agree and such a wonderful lens. I hope it opens up a lot of eyes.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @Minoru10: Thanks for commenting. Even though it is very basic information, the only way discrimination diminishes is when we recognize it for what it is.

    • tmsmith19 profile image

      tmsmith19 3 years ago

      Great Lens!

    • lesliesinclair profile image
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      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @tmsmith19: I appreciate that.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
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      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @Diaper Bag Blog: It took me some time to find such articles also, but now I write them, as do several others. We have some real professional writers on Squidoo.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @EpicEra: It's awful hard for us to see ourselves from a distance. And I find that I am the worst judge of my own activities and ways of thinking, unless I can step far back and get a fresh perspective on them. Especially when we espouse our childhood ideas on into adulthood, without scruitiny, we are prone to narrowness of thinking. Maybe it's our fast-acting shows, movies, and games that often trigger us into automatic reactions that do none of us any good. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      One of our problems is that society or government can come up with a definition for a formerly useful generic word, so that suddenly every use of that word becomes tainted by its having been usurped by the powers that be. The trouble with that is that the power group then cannot see that their actions can also fit the term.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      It is a fabulous lens and the topic is also pretty unique according to me.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @anonymous: I appreciate your remarks, and agree that it's a topic that's mostly ignored outside the private conversation in the home.

    • WriteMe3 profile image

      WriteMe3 3 years ago

      Yes! Great lens.

    • girlfriendfactory profile image

      girlfriendfactory 3 years ago

      This is so eloquently written and sadly, true. I find that people are quick to dismiss negativity within a group they identify with (be it race, gender, religion, whatever) but as soon as you find a group different that you, especially vastly different, it's quite easy to start pointing fingers to the whole instead of to the individual. No one condemns the many American Christians for the terrorist type acts here at home prior to 911 ~ we are quick to call it something else (mental illness, hatred for America, whatever) because that's what it should be, blame to the person responsible. However you have a radical splinter group of an entire community outside of the norm, a norm most Americans do not understand, and we point fingers at the entire religion and an entire region ~ the "Middle East." They are all bad. It's horrible.

      I will certainly need to read "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" because even I am guilty of judging when I should be more compassionate and I think I'm more enlightened than most ~ a little more help never hurts though! Awesome job!

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @girlfriendfactory: Thanks, Girlfriend, I think we all can use reminders of these facts, from time to time, because it's so hard to see and understand when we don't do either one, myself included.

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 3 years ago

      What a beautifully-written lens. I recall a number of years ago, a woman I knew who was terribly intolerant of Aboriginals. When her daughter started going out with a young man of Aboriginal descent, she was somewhat shamefaced. Ultimately her daughter married the young man, who by the way, is now a very successful business man. She then changed her tune.

      It's sad that we are too quick to compartmentalise people. As a TESOL teacher I met and shared with, many refugees from all corners of the globe. Each and every one of them was beautiful.

      I wish I could nominate this for LOTD! Thanks for your eloquent expose on discrimination.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
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      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @rattie lm: Your message gives me tingles of appreciation. So often we just mimic what we grow up hearing and I know I had to cross some bridges in my own life to get to the other side where echoes of the past couldn't influence me by stifling love and empathy.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @rattie lm: You CAN nominate it for LOTD. Go to Squidoo HQ page and look for the link. Or send me a note, and I'll send you the link.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for taking on this important topic, and for doing it with such grace and clarity. I'm grateful beyond words to find this here on Squidoo. For some reason, we seem always to have plenty of bullies willing to use the misfortune of other people to further their own ends and puff themselves up. Worse, all too often, and as an excuse for their own hatred and violence, such bullies like to associate an entire group of people with a violently radical few.

      Social media has given a public forum to all of us, whatever our views, and gives us an opportunity to discover just how widespread and terrifying bullying and hatred have become in our society. I am frequently shocked at some of the mean, even violence-advocating things some of my Facebook and Twitter friends and tweeps (as we call them) have said.

      I am equally amazed at how many of my friends and tweeps advocate peace and non-violent communication. May their numbers grow and grow and grow.

      Thank you especially for the recommendation of Armstrong's book. I will put it on my wish list and get it as soon as possible.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @ecogranny: I'm grateful to you for taking the time to respond with such a heartfelt message. And I agree, it's gratifying to recognize all the messages of nonviolence and peace that also abound on social media.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have not yet read Karen Armstrong's book on Compassionate Life. This will be a good read.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 3 years ago

      Of course the points you have made make sense, in that we cannot blame the whole basket for the damage one rotten apple has done. However, we also cannot turn a blind eye to the bad apple in the basket. We must face it, take a stand, and do something to turn that negative into a positive. As with all abusive behavior it can only be stopped if we stop being bystanders.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @aesta1: She does have a way of putting things into perspective with great clarity.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @Ruthi: Yes, that's why I'm speaking up right here in our country where we live, working to change mispconceptions one reader at a time. We just can't hold Muslims accountable for what putrid apples did any more than we can blame Christians for the rubbish hateful networks promote. Thanks for your comments.

    • KathyZ1 profile image

      KathyZ1 3 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • profile image

      FreedomGrrl 3 years ago

      This lens angered me. What angered me most, Papier, is when you wrote that it "pains" you that it's now "ok to criticize Muslims and Islam". OF COURSE IT'S OK TO CRITICIZE MUSLIMS AND ISLAM! We live in a democracy who's founding documents guarantee freedom of speech, which includes the right to criticize anyone, even those who aren't Christian, male, and white. What pains me, Papier, is this grotesque double standard which says that America, Christianity, and the West can be damned with impunity but every word spoken about Islam and Muslims must be 100% positive, no matter how much historical, moral, and intellectual dishonesty that involves. If we can expose the sins of Christian civilization without being guilty of stereotyping and discrimination then the same can be done to Islamic civilization. Equality demands it, doesn't it?

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @FreedomGrrl: Oh dear, I didn't mean to set anyone off, and I'm mystified as to how you could read my sentence: "The inculcation into our society as a given, that it's OK to criticize Muslims and Islam, to speak of the whole religion in stereotype, pains me." Be sure to read the last two words: "pains me."

      Another thing that pains me is for someone to try to make of my words something that I did not say. NO, I did not condone criticism-with-stereotyping-of members-of-Other-Religions-or-their-Members as Expletive, expletive, expletive. I think it's NOT OK to smear others either, maybe legal, but wrong.

      Please take the particular sentence as a whole, because that is the thought, one phrase dependent upon the others; and the others are dependent upon the whole article. The point of the whole article is that "stereotyping is wrong.' Yes, (you said: equality) but I see it as our civil rights and sense of fairness) do demand the ability to criticize freely, but that's not my disagreement; I criticize certain specific actions by some Muslims as I do of some who belong to other religions.

      It is the blanket approval of those who freely slander, spread untruths and incite others to hatred of people because they belong to a certain religion. I named Islam because I have personally experienced the harm from this bigotry against the religion and the people we practice it that is so widely condoned. That harm affects not only Muslims, but it harms the children who learn bigotry from their parents, and the people who witness it and the people we perform the acts.

      I am totally opposed to branding members of any religion or group as being abhorrent and a danger to "us" who are not part of that group.

      This same bigotry harmed Catholics, Jews, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Mexicans, Africans, you.name.the.group, before, in our American history, and it was wrong every time. Today we have the internet phenomenon that enables people who would foster hatred to spread their venom across the world in a flash.

      Think about how many times downright lies are spread by clicking Share just because it felt so good or devilish to laugh at something outrageous that popped onto a Timeline on fb. It's so easy to do, feeling delightful and powerful to the perpetrator for a moment. My point is to encourage people to think about that clicking, and I use an example that is all too blatant in social media today.

      The Social Media Zeitgeist condones the brandishing of clicking fingers to cause harm. Yes, it's legal, maybe, but it is wrong, immoral, unethical, degrading, and all too often purposeful. Incitement of fear is seductive for people who get their jollies by demeaning others, and I pity them.

      My article is not about rights; it is about right.

    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 3 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      Part of my day to day work is too teach young people not to believe stereotypes. It can be difficult when there are so many out there in median and social media. Thanks! This was interesting.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @AcornOakForest: Your dedication will no doubt alleviate a lot of pain. I understand how some people and groups can bond through their ridicule of others, so it must be quite a challenge to break through some of those bonds. Good going.

    • charlenedelfin lm profile image

      charlenedelfin lm 3 years ago

      Yes, these points make sense. I just wish to say that this Lens is brave in facing these issues. It is inspiring. Also, thank you for making a thorough review of my Lens, "Shoestring Memories"; I appreciate it.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @charlenedelfin lm: Thanks. It just poured out of me after having been stung on the forum and deciding to name some parts of the problem. Yay for shoestrings!

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 3 years ago from London UK

      I can't stomach tweets and such like. People just pouring out unconsidered words in the spur of any moment. Unconsidered thoughts that aren't worth taking seriously. But of course these feed into other people's bigotry, racism and fear of the unfamiliar. And these marred words spread like a plague - but faster! People are frightened of the truth and so they don't even look for it - instead they look for scapegoats and innocent people to blame. And they choose to believe lies. I agree with Charlene this is a very brave lens - well done. I salute you.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @Adventuretravels: Many thanks for sharing your thoughts. So much blaming that some people seem to be building their personas on shaky foundation bricks of blame.

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 3 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I try to be vigilant and actively signal a complaint to FB and the like if I read something which amounts to hate speech. Great lens...

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @Deborah Swain: In the long past, when first introduced to them, I blamed the sitcoms that raised generations of youth to take delight in mocking parents and I couldn't bear to watch a whole episode. It seems like that attitude of disdain for others who might hold a bit of wisdom, promoted by the shows, has erupted into something awful. Of course there are many causes of stereotyping and our lives are not big TV shows, but many of the younger generations treat them so..

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      I hate discrimination at any level. Individual people make individual decisions.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @WriterJanis2: Yes. I think the problem is that if we are in the in-group then it's hard for us to feel what the out-group feels and that makes it a real challenge.

    • Minoru10 profile image

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      Definitely ! I also hate discrimination and bullying, especially when one feels justified (feeling right) and causing pain and suffering towards others.

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      @Minoru10: Such a shame, isn't it, when one finds pleasure in harming others. I'm refreshed by the comments shared here.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 2 years ago

      I enjoy immensely this lens, basically as you tell things as they are, and separate the hype and bias social media excels in... What really bother me is the "short memory" people have for important events which happened... and YES! we don't learn enough from our own history lessons..

      Regards

    • lesliesinclair profile image
      Author

      lesliesinclair 2 years ago

      @Michey LM: That's so. Often we only seek to find someone or some group to blame. which serves reinforce our possibly wrong point of view, in a childish way.

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