Equality, Discrimination, Marginalization and Development

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The persistence of stereotypes, the so-called ‘common knowledge’, since times immemorial is a well-known fact in the modern day world. Much of the discourse on discrimination rests on the foundations of these stereotypes, and acknowledges them as the foremost driver of personal biases and prejudices as we experience them, even practice, today. Since it includes forming an irrational, non-validated generalization about the entire population, so to say, based on studying only some of its ‘samples’, the generalization that is arrived at may or may not always be correct- after all, the very justification behind stereotyping is that people do, at times, live out their ascribed stereotypes. To put it mathematically, it is nevertheless possible to form opinions about the population on the basis of just a sample! However, even when statistical theory allows the space for some ‘error term’ in making these generalizations, social theories do not. One will rarely ever see a case of the society going topsy-turvy and stereotypes being reversed, interestingly when it still remains a mystery as to what “society” comprises of in the first place. Such deeply ingrained is the fear of the “society” and its value judgments that on doing something not socially acceptable, an infamous Hindi phrase comes to mind- “chaar log kya kahenge? (what will four people say?)” It’s an oft repeated one, though who are these four people anyway is a big question mark in itself. What this society does is that it creates fear- a kind of unimaginable terror if one steps over the line- and uses this terror as a means to systematically establish long-prevailing stereotypes in peoples’ minds. They neither realize the non-validity of these generalizations nor have the courage to challenge them. The implications of these actions on their everyday lives are manifold. Moving forward with the example of gender- one of the most often cited areas...
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