A Lesson on Stereotypes
Michael Ramsburg

I enjoyed your essay .

You may be creating a straw man. A majority of the people living in major cities spend no time thinking about Appalachian culture. Because of this, if they were to go to the Appalachian mountains they have to rely on similar experiences and cultural references (stereotypes) to guess at what they’re experiencing and likely outcomes of interactions with the people there.

A world where an individual didn’t use stereotypes would be painfully inefficient. We would have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of every thing we encounter. Here’s a good reference making a detailed pro-stereotype argument:

However, I agree with the main point of your essay — something is lost when everyone starts converging on one universal way of behaving. You might make an argument KFC is creating a similar situation in Asia.

Your point, in my opinion, would be stronger if you stayed away from stereotypes. Using stereotypes to explain the evaporation of culture is externalizing the problem; it distills to, “the world is shaming away the beauty of this culture.” The strengths of the culture, its image and people’s preference for it might be the rally point. Are TV shows like ‘Justified’ doing a good job? How has the Appalachian Music and culture positively impacted the world? What are some of the traditions that would interest people? What weaknesses of the culture are making people abandon it, and can that be changed?

Thank you for this article. It is a much safer way to discuss both sides of stereotypes than the typical conversation (race). Stereotypes are a useful (and sometimes dangerous) tool each of us needs to make sense of the world, but they should be a soft starting point. For example, stereotypes shape a person’s notions/beliefs about how a conversation with an elderly women might go. But a person who has a conversation with Ruth Bader Ginsberg would be a fool to stick to their initial expectations.

Similarly, we should all be cognizant of the tail-wind of positive stereotypes and head-winds of negative ones. And as long as they are honest and kind, we should be forgiving of the people who initially treat us like characters who just walked off the set of ‘Justified’ (insert here whatever movie/TV show that characterizes your specific stereotype).

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