How can you tell if a Cretan is lying? When his lips move. That’s what one of the Cretan prophets said. And the Apostle Paul seemed to agree. Really? ALL Cretans? Every last one of them? Statements like this lead to the creation of stereotypes which in turn lead to behaviors of mistrust and mistreatment. Left unchallenged, stereotypes can lead to policies of institutional discrimination and marginalization. Given the generalized beliefs about the character of Cretans, how do you think they were treated in the church?
We have a long history of creating stereotypes of ethnic and racial minorities—stereotypes that have lead to institutional discrimination both in the church and society at large. In large part, the accepted stereotype that African-Americans males are criminals has resulted in aggressive policing of minority communities, race profiling, and an over-representation in our correctional system. Minorities are suspected of criminal behavior long before any crime occurs. Minorities receive harsher sentences than non-minorities for the same crime. There are scores of high-profile cases where people of color were treated like criminals for doing nothing such as Harvard professor, Luis Gates, trying to enter his own home after locking himself out.
How have you been influenced by the stereotypes of African American males? What other stereotypes influence how you relate to people who are different from yourself? How can you, as a person of faith, challenge the stereotypes?