When I talk about Breaking Stigma to others, I get many complex questions that might seem to be very simple. Some people say to me, “Social stigma is something that we as a nation (the United States of America) have really moved past, haven’t we?” This question is much more complex than one might think, so let me fully explain the question and answer below.
When you talk to someone about something you feel is common sense, you might start your sentence with the two words “most people”. You might say, “Most people know that when someone says… that it means…” When individuals say, “most people,” in this manner, what they are really saying is, “most people whom I know,” or, “most people in my demography.”
When people campaign for President of the United States they understand that the different areas of the country have different things they need to hear, or not hear, from the campaigner and his or her campaign. In the 2008 presidential election in the United States, the Obama Campaign was specifically told not to say anything that might doubt anyone as to whether an African American could be president within a community which was composed primarily with African Americans. Why is this important to note? In psychology, the stigma associated with a statement like this, might greatly change the outcome of the votes within that demography. In psychologies studies in many American universities, psychologists have found that people associate their value with the images of those they see day to day with similar qualities that they possess. It is so much this way that if one average Caucasian American were to go into a academic test just before seeing ten photos of other Caucasian Americans who were unhappy, homeless, and had ragged dirty clothing, they would score on average 12% less on a test where another average Caucasian American who was shown ten pictures of successful Caucasian Americans. If African Americas were to associate Obama with that sort of doubt in their mind, they may not have gotten roughly 98% of the United States votes from African Americas.
This is a small example of the effects of self-stigma. Some demographics in the United States may certainly be past this form of stigma, and can truly see beyond the appearances and behaviors of other people within the world. Can we say this for everyone? The answer is no. We would need a greater understanding of demographics around the world to make the statement that we as human beings have moved beyond this trait.
In truth, there are many people today that suffer from religious persecution, racism, sexism, stigma that comes with diseases and disorders, and more. If I had to give you an estimate on the percentage of people I hear from around the world who say that this organization has a great mission and purpose compared to those who ask me if we haven’t moved beyond stigma, I would say that 95-99% of people I hear from say that this mission is a profound one, and 5% or less ask me if we as Americans, or even humans, have not moved past this issue.
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