As a child, I grew up hearing my parents say “You know what they say, ‘when you assume, you make an *** of you and me'” The punchline for this joke was never said for the sake of them telling it to their 11 year old daughter, but the concept is still the same.
Assuming comes from a person’s inherent want to create a generalization for everything they have ever encountered. These generalizations are flawed because even if there is one example that falsifies the assumption, the entire generalization is wrong. However, I feel that people in modern day society will find one or maybe even a few exemptions from their created stereotype, but they will not change their incorrect generalization.
This stubborn stereotype is much like Binyavanga Wainaina’s article, “How to Write About Africa”. In this article, Wainaina pokes fun at the long held generalizations made about Africa and how people are still using them today when writing about Africa. African stereotypes such as using words like tribal or displaying primal naked warriors displays the idea of creating a continent off of a single story. Novels and movies create a single story about how Africa is a “country” that needs to be saved by the all powerful white man.
At first, I truly believed that I was superior and did not create generalizations or stereotypes about other people. But then I realized that perhaps single story generalizations could be made within my own country. Even though my parents had warned me not to assume, I realized that by watching movies or television shows about a certain state, I was creating stereotypes about every person who lived there. Whether it was watching Blue Crush and assuming everyone in Hawaii surfed or watching Seabiscuit and assuming that everyone in Kentucky rode horses, I was making incorrect generalizations.
It was not until I came to TCU when I realized how much I relied on my stereotypes when I met new people. I would ask if they rode their horse or if their neighbors were Mormon and polygamist. I did not realize how silly my single-story stereotype questions were until I was asked if, being from southern California, I surfed to school every morning and lived next to only celebrities. At first I laughed because this made absolutely no sense to me, there is no possible way to surf to a specific location and in a city of millions of people there is no chance that both of my neighbors were celebrities. It was then that I realized that my stereotype questions probably sounded the same to them. My single story assumption was a sad attempt at understanding the world around me but it was then when I realized I could expand my knowledge and let in more stories so that one story could turn into thousands.