One of my friends that I met 5 years ago in Australia during my first visit recently came to visit me. I obviously missed him and was happy to meet him again after all the years apart again in my beloved country. What got me astonished was his box of stereotypes he was carrying with him around. Maybe it was because of time apart; maybe because we grew up; maybe it was something else. But as a matter of fact he was showing more and more stereotypes not about me personally, but about my country and Russian people. During the week that he stayed with me, I tried as much as I could to break his stereotypes but it looked like they were growing so deep in him that there was no way for me to change his views.
By the end of the week he told my friend that he is gay and he was afraid to tell me because I am Russian. You can only imagine how astonished I was! Not because he is gay, I knew that before he told her. I was astonished because of his prejudice, his views of me and my country.
I know that recently Russia has drawn a lot of bad publicity, but can you name a country that never made mistakes?
This post, however, is not about Russia. It is about stereotypes that we carry around and do not will to part from. Let’s be honest. We are all guilty as charged of having stereotypes about others, no matter if they are small or big. But the greatest mistake that people make is bringing all people in one pot and seeing them as whole nation and government mixed in one person. People come to me and do not accept the fact that I am not equal to my government and I am not responsible for their decisions. They see me and gladly open box of their stereotypes.
What I do? If the thing is small, I explain it. If it’s too big like recent events with Ukraine, I can’t. So I just smile, because I am not there and do not see whole picture, so I’d better keep quiet.
Do I have stereotypes? Sure I do! And when I meet new people and realize that I have some doubtful knowledge about their country I gladly open my box with an intention to let that stereotype go. I’m happy when my stereotypes crash. It means that I get to gain knowledge about a person and a country and live free.
So my question is do you want to carry around that box or would you rather give it freedom?
Griffith University’s Ally Network promotes a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) friendly culture for students and staff. For more information or support visit the Ally Network website.