It is hard sometimes to not fall into the stereotype trap. I do, in my “politically incorrect world,” believe that stereotypes are at times well earned, well deserved and often times predictive not as an absolute truth but as one more piece of information. Having said that and upset many of you I also realize that a stereotype is a generalization and generalizations by their very nature are almost always false. Unfortunately each of above sentences are themselves generalizations and you are left to draw your own conclusions as to their truth value.
One of the life and educational lessons that is not taught in college, on TV or growing up in a white bread neighborhood, like I did, has to do with the differences between perception, appearance and reality.
One beautiful cool spring day I was walking behind a high school kid towards the main entrance of a high poverty middle school. As I walked behind him I was thinking to myself, “ look at that piece of work.” His appearance was almost perfectly conformed despite his attempt to visually scream non-conformity. I was thinking that his appearance was that of a gang- banger, classroom destroyer, office bait and future drop out. His pants were around his knees 12 inches of underwear showing and enough room between his butt and his belt to park a Volkswagen. He had an oversize jersey, gold chains, a hat with a long wide flat bill perched sideways over his expensive sun glasses, topped off or if you prefer bottomed off with oversized baggy pants and huge half laced tennis shoes. When we got to the school door he paused, stepped back and held it open for me, while he turned and said with a genuine smile, “nice day isn’t it.” A simple lesson but one I have never forgotten. A lesson that now never fails to appear to me when dealing with stereotypes and non-conforming parents and kids.