by Reid Fitzsimons
Several years back there was a mediocre/better than most crime drama called Cold Case, i.e. the crack detectives solved murders committed in the past but shelved away at the time. One episode involved the murder of a young woman/mother who had been the victim of domestic abuse. In one flashback scene the scummy abusive husband, who didn’t prove to be the killer, was sitting at the kitchen table angrily contemplating the bowl of cereal his wife placed in front of him. She was busy trying to get herself off to work and their child off to school when he erupted, “I don’t want my breakfast to come from no g*ddamn box!!” As she meekly tried to apologize and quickly fix him a more substantial meal, he reached his limit of tolerance and began smacking her around. This guy had it all: poor hygiene, no job, wearing one of those sleeveless T-shirts sometimes referred to as a “wife beater,” etc, seamlessly fitting our stereotype of domestic abuser.
As Americans rarely are we more content than when holding on to our narratives. It makes us comfortable in our confusing and meaningless world of excessive wealth and materialism, and substantiates our sense of righteousness. Our stereotypes are frequently confirmed via popular entertainment, the news media, and the like, and the circle is unbroken. Indeed law and policy are often based on popular stereotypes of the moment, and large sums of money and resources expended in our quest for feelings to trump thoughtfulness. Of course there is a downside to embracing stereotypes, as evidenced by Ku Klux Klanners and their cousins the Black Lives Matter activists. This is not to say that stereotypes are innately incorrect- many likely have some basis in reality. Recollecting the movie White Men Can’t Jump and observing that 23% of NBA players are white, the stereotype suggested by the title has a statistical rationale.