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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: August 2020

3 - Generalizing: “All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave”


Fear of generalizing about people is often prompted by legitimate concerns that implicit racial, gender, and other social biases and stereotypes may lead to problematic generalizations and action. There is a pronounced tendency to (over)generalize stereotype-confirming and negative actions by people one assigns to an outgroup, a social group to which one does not belong. We cannot dispense with generalizing but we can consider how and when we generalize. (White) Americans often profess to be colorblind and are certainly often color-mute, reluctant to speak of racial matters even in the interest of reducing persisting racial inequality. Explicit talk about quantities – some, 500, and the like – depends on who or what is included in the category being counted, the domain in the particular context, but ‘marked’ members of categories are often erased in this process, not counted. Bringing them back in is the point of “Black Lives Matter,” a point often (deliberately) overlooked. Implicit generalizations or generics don’t answer the question of "how many" but assign properties at the level of kinds. They are used to talk about both statistical and social norms (e.g., “Boys don’t cry”).

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