The world is complicated, filled with people from different backgrounds, cultures and behaviors. It is natural to try making sense of those who are different by lumping them together according to perceived traits, sometimes based on a grain of reality. Stereotyping is everywhere, and affects nearly every aspect of society from sexual politics to insurance rates.
One of the most repeated bits of common wisdom is that stereotypes are always correct, even when offensive or derogatory. They are based on daily observation of behaviors, and the assumption is that everyone cannot be wrong. Unfortunately, this way of thinking often reflects leftover bigotry or prejudice, or is simply cultural bias, but not necessarily truth.
Racial stereotyping is especially pervasive. Any country supporting a racially diverse population is faced with combating the idea that dark-skinned people are inherently violent, dishonest, or high. That description may apply to some individuals, but never to an entire group. Every population has its share of criminals and geniuses, regardless of national origin.
Some still repeat the erroneous idea that Mexicans are lazy, or that Asians cannot operate vehicles competently. Even though American agriculture relies on Latin labor to complete the harvest, and Asian car companies are world innovators and industry leaders, these and similar ideas are hard to eliminate. The fact that they are inaccurate does not prevent them from being repeated, however.
Politicians and some religious leaders use stereotyping to win elections or manage congregations. Fundamentalists of all stripes are fond of characterizing gay people as being universally unacceptable, dangerous sexual predators who will somehow convert children, despite the fact that most pedophiles are heterosexual. The same kind of thinking is demonstrated when all Muslims are labeled as terrorists.
One of the longest-lasting stereotypes is that women are not as capable as men. While this point of view has roots stretching into antiquity and religion, more women than men today complete a college degree. Women drivers are often mocked, but Oregon auto insurance statistics show that males are more likely to experience moving traffic violations, or to die in an accident.
As the world becomes ever more linked, people will increasingly begin to realize that simply believing a particular stereotype does not make it right or true. The time when broad generalizations could be made about another group of human beings is coming to an end, and will only conclude when people are able to realize that all groups of human beings are uniquely capable.