sweeping generalizations don't help a soul

Monday, July 30, 2012

I am always surprised—and, indeed, why shouldn't I be?—when I find myself in conversation with anyone making sweeping generalizations about "certain" types of people.   

Of course he would do that, the person will say.  He's from (name a country).

Of course she would say that.  She's... Latina. 

I find generalizations of any kind both treacherous and appalling.  I have been squeamish around bucketing, categories, labels (applied to people, literature, opinions, persuasions) for as long as I can remember.  But it's personal, too, for me, for I married a Salvadoran man, and I have raised a beautiful half-Latin child, and any bracketing, tiering, or typing assigned to "those Latinos" is an assault of sorts against my family.

This image, above, is El Salvador, years ago.  It is my husband's childhood home, and it is home, still to Nora, my mother-in-law, and to Bill's aunts Adela, Ana Ruth, and Marta, and to his uncle, and to my husband's best friends, and to a gardener named Tiburcio, and to so many more.  Nora's first language isn't English, far from it, but Nora has taken such an interest in my writing life that she has asked three times already for a copy of my newest book, which was only released a week or so ago.  It will take her a long time to read it, but she will.  She's interested in the stories I tell, even if I'm not "from her country" and was not, perhaps, the kind of woman she first imagined her son saying yes to, and do happen to have skin that is lighter than her own.

We are a web, we are human, we are mutual planet dwellers.

Sweeping generalizations don't help a soul.


Michael G-G said...

This is so true.

P.s. I love the image of your mother-in-law reading your books, even though English is far from being her native language. That shows her great pride in, and love for, you.

Serena said...

very true...and I wonder what it is about our human nature that makes us so prone to categorizing everything...

Liviania said...

So very true. But it's hard to know what to say someone when you hear them say something so audacious.

The1stdaughter said...

I love this. So so much. <3

patti.mallett_pp said...

Wet eyes - again. Beautiful.

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