The human mind is an expert at finding patterns. There’s so much information overload around us that we have to use patterns to better digest it all. And pattern recognition isn’t just work, we even do it for fun with crossword puzzles and other games. Our minds are powerful computers and computers are meant to compute. We process the world around us and make inferences about it. A lot of those inferences are spot on. If we see a barking dog running toward us, history has told us that we might be in danger. But other times those inferences are just plain wrong. We take all the basic information about something and use it make biased generalizations.
We’ve all stereotyped things before. It happens naturally when our minds are always looking for patterns and then categorizing them into buckets. Instead of getting to know someone or something, quickly make judgments based off of the things we think we know. It’s something we have to actively work on because it holds us back from getting to know the true nature of someone. We can’t always put people and things into buckets because we’re all individuals. Stereotyping hurts human interaction because it hinders truth and genuineness. But we’ve all also been stereotyped in some way as well. We all remember how much it sucks when you’ve been stereotyped because it’s not a true representation of who you are. When in your life have you been a victim of stereotyping?
Here’s a short story on when in my life I have been a victim of stereotyping.
I ran over to my bed and turned on the TV. The game system was loading up as I tapped the buttons on my controller fiercely. I really hated playing this new game that was released. I played it every year before but this year it was absolutely horrible to play Call of Duty Modern Warfare. I knew I would still play it though because my friends played it on and off. I pulled out my phone and text, “I’m almost done loading up!” They were all waiting on me because I had to finish my daily writing right around the time that they were getting on to play. I didn’t mind it though. Dwayne and Omar were like nocturnal owls that played late into the wee hours of the morning. My game finished loading up and I quickly text the group that I was joining the lobby.
I grabbed my gaming headset and plugged it into my controller. I wasn’t really the vocal type when playing games. I would rather stay quiet and let my skills do all the talking. But we would have random conversations about all kinds of things while playing. So it was standard to have the mic on so we could talk back and forth while playing. That was another thing that made it so much fun. If we were all silent while playing together, it would still feel like I was playing alone. I popped up in their pre-game lobby where they were waiting for me. And immediately the competitive talk started. Omar said he was going to get the first hundred plus score before us. Then Dwayne says he’s been getting some high scores so we better watch out. And I just tell them they already know what it is.
“Brrtrtrrtrt!” “Incoming Missile!” “BOOOOOM!” We were in a game that was hectic. There was all kind of gunfire everywhere. There were grenades going off in every which direction. And we were running into enemies every two seconds. But Omar was going off getting kill after double kill. And Dwayne was on a streak about to get a his chemical gas attack. Yes. There was a whole chemical gas attack weapon in the game. I don’t know if that’s progressively realisitic or just plain toxic for twelve year old boys to be playing with. Everyone was doing great in the game except me. I was getting a kill here and then dying right after. It felt like my game was lagging but Dwayne and Omar were tired of hearing that excuse. The game was really close but by the end we lost to the other team.
We went into the pre-game lobby and they were disappointed. We were so close to winning and getting more kills than the other team. I was just getting unlucky and not playing well. I was kind of holding them back and I knew it. We loaded into a lobby with some other players and while we were still talking about what we could of done better in the last game. The other players in the lobby overheard our conversation and realized that we were black. Then all I hear is, “Everybody shut up. Everybody shut up. We have black people in the game.” I was really confused at first. Then Omar just took our team out of the lobby. It wasn’t the first time he’s heard things like this. We looked for a new lobby and it loaded us in the same exact one.
“Oh, guys hush. The black people are back in our lobby,” the main guy said. I asked him what he was talking about. He said, “You’re black right? I don’t want you guys to get offended and go berserk on us for being racist.” It made no sense to me. We didn’t say anything about them when we got in the lobby. I thought he was genuinely concerned on coming off as racist. But when he started laughing with his friends saying, “Listen to the black people. We don’t want them to feel like we’re ignoring or degrading them,” it started making more sense. Omar explained that they were being sarcastic not genuine. I stopped talking while they went on with their jokes. And then the game loaded up.
We were on one team with another cool guy. And the guys talking about us were on the enemy team. We started playing the game and we were all really upset. We didn’t like the things he was saying about us. He was stereotyping us for absolutely no reason. The game was close and they were winning by five kills. Then Omar said we should just leave the game. Dwayne said, “No! We need to stay and beat them!” And that’s when everything changed. We all started getting really serious and playing at an elite level. I saw them all doing really well. And then I got focused and started playing like a full blown pro player. We won with flying colors and the other team started raging. The same guys that were talking were upset, screaming, and crying because we beat them at their own game. I told those kids to get better at the game before they talk smack and never come into my lobby again!
You can’t always fight fire with fire. But you can outplay, out-think, and outwill your opponents.