Watch out for preconceived notions

Published 9:57 pm Thursday, June 9, 2016

By Kenya Smith

I sometimes think about how we can have preconceived notions about people who are different from us.

Our preconceived notions may seem to help us and protect us from the unknown and uncertain consequences that we come up against, but most of the time they hurt us and hurt others. Our stereotypes and preconceived notions can hurt us mentally, spiritually and emotionally, because we can unknowingly imprison our thinking and our ability to live out life like God intended for us.

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Here are three examples.

First, the black community has a long history of struggles and successes. For many years, African-Americans have had many stereotypes — the mammy, the sambo, the sapphire and the present-day hoodlum and angry black woman.

When others see a black person, some automatically see a troublemaker or a deadbeat. As a result, many African-Americans have lost their lives due to the ever-present ideas that others have. However, they do not see how there are many African-Americans today who are trying to make things better for themselves and their families, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Next, the Latino community also has a rich history of struggles and successes. Just like black people, Latinos have also been discriminated against, prejudged and stereotyped.

As immigration continues to be a hot topic, many Latinos, regardless of their citizenship, have been stereotyped as people who want to take people’s jobs (jobs that we don’t necessarily want), and poison communities with drugs and violence. We too often think about the illegal immigrant, the drug lord, the job thief when we encounter Latinos.

Just like African-Americans, many Latinos have lost their lives due to people’s fears. However, we do not see that there many Latinos who are also trying to make things better for themselves, whether they are natural born citizens or they entered this country legally or illegally.

Last, the LGBT community has a history of both struggles and successes.

Many people do not like to discuss LGBT-related issues, because it might cause them to compromise their religious beliefs. While we are free to follow our religious convictions regarding this issue, here are some things that we must consider.

First, whenever we see a gay person or a transgender person, some of us conclude or worry they are child molesters or pedophiles. Look at the current bathroom debate. Many people base their stance on the notion that transgender people want to rape and molest people. However, most transgender people and gay people do not want to molest and rape people.

We also have to realize that many people in the LGBT community have been bullied, ridiculed and even killed, and it is sad that those who have religious convictions fail to say anything or do anything about it. We say “Love the sinner, hate the sin” as an escape from talking about homophobia, but we do not fully live out that saying.

I may not have discussed all of this in detail, but we must realize that our preconceived notions can hinder us from communicating with others effectively. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 should be the foundation for communicating with different people.

Also, look at the life of Jesus in the Gospels and how he communicated with others. Lastly, if you haven’t seen it yet, watch “Zootopia.”

Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native and a recent graduate from Regent University. Email her at