FROM THE BAR STOOL

Stereotypes and social norms

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Breaking the mould: Stereotypical assumptions are the mother of all evil.

My brother and I recently watched the Springbok’s epic test match against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, which the Springboks sadly lost despite a gallant effort. Anyway, after the match we decided to have a few drinks at my local watering hole with a couple of other rugby crazy aficionados.

Still proudly wearing our Springbok jerseys —and with my face painted green and gold (what a sight, I tell you) — we got to the pub, which was unsurprisingly choc-a-bloc. We managed to find  a little corner where we could enjoy our drinks in relative comfort whilst reflecting back on the eighty minutes of fast-paced, dynamic, action-packed, enthralling rugby that we had just witnessed.

Just after we have taken our seats and ordered what would be the first of many rounds of South Africa’s favourite lager, a guy (unknown to us) from a table right across, walked up to us and said, in a very loud voice, “So how’s Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs doing okes? What about Bafana Bafana?”

We all looked at each other and wondered what the heck this dude was on about.

He proceeded to introduce himself to us and then condescendingly tell us how good it was that black South Africans where now at a place where they could support the Springboks and even wear the Bok jersey, even though rugby was not necessarily their sport of preference.

My brother and I looked at each other, smiled and proceeded to talk to this fellow, who knew nothing about us and had just made stereotypical assumptions about us which where fundamentally flawed.

Firstly, contrary to the popular stereotype about black pleople in South Africa, my brother and I do not watch local football at all, because we think it’s an inferior product of the poorest quality and therefore have no time for it whatsoever.

Secondly, totally against the norm, we actually consider rugby to be our favourite sport and know quite a bit about it.

I’m still to meet anyone who can debate and discuss rugby with me like my brother, despite the many pub conversations I’ve had over the years with “old toppies” who consider rugby knowledge to be their divine right and often want to dish out pieces of knowledge about the game that they foolishly assume you are unaware of.

So we let this ‘strange’ fellow know that we don’t watch local football and we actually prefer our rugby. We discussed the Bok game a little and then he proceeded to discuss a whole range of rugby issues, discovering that he’s a Lions fan and we are Bulls fans, so there was a whole lot of banter.

He told us that Jannie Breedt was his favourite player ever and we teased him about the fact that Jannie Breedt had really enjoyed a stellar career but retired without ever having won a Currie Cup.

So after a long conversation and a few drinks, he was like, “jeepers, you okes are different hey!”(And you know it can only go downhill from here).

He introduced us to his other mates and told them what “lekker” okes we were since we knew our rugby so much.

So after he’d left and we’d stayed over for a few more pints with my brother, we discussed him. I turned to my brother and said: “Whenever you meet people like that, who make condescending assumptions about you, there’s no point getting offended.

“You must just know that you are better than them, because you are not caught up in a world of racially profiling and stereotyping people. Just remind yourself that they are stuck in the Dark Ages and you are not and so do not stoop to their level by getting angry.”

We both agreed that this was most definitely the way to go. But I was just reflecting on that and thinking: why do people always see each other according to stereotypes?

Who says blacks should act a certain way and whites another way? Who created these norms anyway and why should they be binding on anyone? I’ve never been one to follow stereotypes and norms when it comes to any issue anyway.

We should be secure enough to break the mould and always see people for what they truly are, not what our preconceived notions have told us they should be based on certain “societal norms.”

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