By Aoife Barrington-Haber
“What type of UU R U?”
Imagine you are walking down the street proudly sporting a tee shirt with your church’s logo on it. Then a passerby reads your shirt and says with a chuckle, “Oh, you’re a UU? Well, be careful you don’t spill your Fair Trade coffee in your Prius on the way to the farmers’ market!”
Seriously? The nerve of them! You grumble to yourself as you unplug your car from the charging station and slurp the soy milk foam emerging from your reusable travel mug. But you decide to let it go, lest your irritation at being unfairly stereotyped distracts you from your farm-to-table meal planning mission.
Well, ok, maybe it’s true for some of us. But that doesn’t mean ALL UU’s are coffee-guzzling hybrid-driving organic produce addicts, does it? Of course not. That’s a stereotype.
Stereotypes can be funny sometimes, allowing us to shine a light of truth on our commonalities and even understand ourselves better.* But even affectionate in-group stereotyping can cause rifts, threatening to alienate group members that don’t fit the model.
If you are a parent, I encourage you to explore the idea of stereotypes with your children. When I see examples of stereotypes in the media, I take a moment to point them out. Even if a stereotype might seem complimentary, it does not affirm the worth and dignity of every individual when we assume that every member of a group is the same in some way. Ask your child how they might respond if they hear someone using stereotypes in an unkind way, like if a friend or relative tells a racist joke. (“I don’t listen to jokes that make fun of someone’s culture.”)
This weekend my family will finally be going to see the movie Zootopia. In addition to being a fun and clever family movie, I am excited to see it because of how it explores and confronts stereotypes. In researching the movie, the writers contacted Dr. Shakti Butler, the producer of the documentary “Cracking the Codes,” (a film that many UU congregations are using at the moment) to learn how to approach the serious issues of cultural and racial bias in a diverse society. I hope you will see this movie and talk with your children or grandchildren about the messages.
Here are some other valuable sources to learn about stereotypes with children in your life:
Blackish, a comedy on ABC. An African American family confronts issues of race and gender stereotyping through the lense of three different generations, with hysterically funny writing.
Horseland, a kids’ animated series available on Netflix streaming. Several of the episodes show characters, both two- and four-legged, confronting their assumptions about gender, race, class and culture.
High School Musical, a Disney tv movie with awesome music and totally G-rated romance and intrigue. The main characters struggle against peer pressure and seek to be themselves and break out of their perceived cliques.
There are also too many excellent books to list here. Check out www.teachingtolerance.org and www.humaneeducation.org for some titles, as well as articles and discussion tips.
*A joke for April Fools’:
Question: *Speaking of stereotypes, how many UU’s does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Is it really the light bulb that needs to change, or the inherently unjust system of the fixture that caused it to burn out?
This month in RE:
For grades Prek-8 (Check weekly announcements for teachers and session title)
4/17Music Service- Intergenerational
For grades 9-12:
4/3 No morning class (Sr Youth meets in PM to plan youth service)
4/10 Sr Youth Service
4/17 Music Service
4/24 Class: Exploring our Values through Poetry
Good news in the nursery: Our own Sarah Randall has joined the nursery staff and will be serving through next year as well. A junior at Tri-County, Sarah’s sense of caring, responsibility and service make her a great addition to the team. Welcome!