NR Digital

Types of Stereotypes

by Theodore Dalrymple
Not all are unreasonable

The man who walks out of his house with a mind devoid of stereotypes is like the man who goes to the Antarctic without having inquired about the weather. But there is no such man: for even to know that the Antarctic exists is to know that it tends to be cold there. Our minds are necessarily full of stereotypes and we could not negotiate the world without them.

George Zimmerman is accused by his detractors of having acted upon a stereotype. He saw a young black man allegedly pursuing an erratic course in a gated community and he concluded that he was up to no good, that quite possibly or even probably he was a burglar on the prowl. If only he had kept another stereotype in his mind, things might not have turned out so disastrously: It was raining that evening and burglars do not like the rain. In fact, the principal cause of certain kinds of crime is clement weather, because the statistical association between such weather and those types of crime is the strongest known to me, stronger even than those between smoking and criminality (more than 90 percent of prisoners, at least in Britain, smoke), and between tattooing and criminality (an even higher percentage of white criminals are tattooed, except for those charged with fraud, embezzlement, etc.).