We cannot eradicate hate, but we can eradicate stereotypes by doing our own part in society.
The hate of others, and the consequences of hate, seems to be getting more and more rampant today. Hate is everywhere we look—in our family and work colleagues' lives, our friends’ lives and on the news, radio, and internet, and so forth. We have experienced it too, and so have our children.
Growing up in Nigeria, I did not really know what stereotypes were. Everyone around me was black. There were a few Indians here and there, a few Caucasians, a few Middle Easterners, and some of mixed race. But still, I did not really know of stereotypes. I guess I was still young and naive, but being around people who looked like me did not call for stereotypic beliefs per se.
I was aware of some tribal differences and unrest going on as a child between the three main tribes in my home country. Yes, some of this unrest was caused by stereotypical ideas, but not at the level it now exists in our present-day world.
I am now more aware of this phenomenon because I moved from my mostly black country to the UK and then to the US.
I realized I was black when I first moved to England at the age of 23. I honestly did not realize my skin tone and my accent would be of such significance. I did not place any special significance on the fact that I was black for the first 23 years of my life, but when I moved to a new country I called home, I was reminded, sometimes in quite obvious ways, sometimes more subtle ways, that I looked and spoke differently.
Do you have another name?
What is your English name?
Are you here to stay?
When are you going back to your country?
Do you guys have TVs and cell phones in your country?
Who taught you how to speak English?
You have an accent—where are you from? (Still not sure how to answer this question, because I still get it today, even now going on 22 years of living in the States. I'm from Lagos, Nigeria, but I am now a US citizen. I'm from Atlanta. I lived in the UK. Pretty long answer. Not sure really how to answer it in a short form, as any answer is never good enough. There always seems to be multiple follow-up questions, regardless of how well I believe I had answered the question. If I were to count, I've probably answered this question a million times since I left Nigeria in 1993.) And by the way, everyone has an accent, anyway!
You don't act or look like a Nigerian. Are you sure you're not from Jamaica or Barbados?
Q: Who do you work for? A: I own my practice.
Q: Are the doctors in your practice partners? A: No, they are employees.
Q: You pay those doctors? A: Yes, I do.
Q: You do? A: Yes, I do.
Q: Does the hospital own your practice? And on and on it goes.
Patient is in room. I walk in—shocked expression on parent's face. “Oh, I thought you'd be a male Japanese doctor. Your name, Okuwobi, sounded Japanese.” First and last time. And they never come back to my office. This happened a lot in the beginning years of my practice in 2004–2006, before I had a website. Now, my face is visible on my website, and all over the internet, so I don't get the shocked faces any longer, and I'm guessing people who come in have viewed me and are comfortable seeing me—hopefully. They are pre-warned that I am black and female, and of African descent, trained in Nigeria, and yes, I am the doctor owner of the practice.
The list goes on and on and on—the uncomfortable, awkward, and unnecessary questions and statements. The cross-checking of facts over and over. Yes, some questions stem from a natural curiosity (those are obvious). But many, if not most, relate directly to stereotyping.
Since I left my country of birth, I have experienced some very uncomfortable feelings because of my skin tone, my accent, and my name, and being a woman, a female physician, a practice owner, a single mom. I was divorced for ten years, and recently got married again in April 2020. Prior to that I still got stereotypical questions based on my single mom status.
A stereotype is defined as a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image of a particular type of person or thing.
Basically, stereotyping is placing people and their actions and their circumstances in a tight box without looking at the big picture. Making assumptions about people based on rigid criteria.
Stereotyping leads to hate and prejudice, which leads to lack of opportunities, dejection, and demoralization, and all its bad consequences on the human race—increasing human divisions, violence, and loss of lives.
So even though I have experienced all the above, I have rejected them, pushed through, and focused on making myself the best person I can be. From the UK till currently in the US, I have refused to receive prejudice. I have not allowed myself to be placed in a box—that rigid, nonflexible box that has judged me before you get to know what is in my soul. I have overcome prejudice by continuously working on making myself the best version of myself. The version that God created me to be.
Prejudice can only exist if there is a receiver.
Reject prejudice by being the best you can be.
Chase your dreams, get a good formal and life education, have a growth mindset, be a life-long learner, avoid polarity and extremism in your thinking, be law abiding, use your gifts and talents to change the world, serve those who need your gifts, be open, be kind, be loving to all people. Avoid acting like, or being a victim. A victim mentality limits personal growth, and it makes one an easy target for prejudice and hate. Know that you have everything you need within yourself to be your best self. A change of mindset and positive, optimistic thinking will enable you reject prejudice. Pursue excellence in all you do. Be mindful of the company you keep and the ideologies of the company you keep. Find ways to heal and forgive if you or your loved ones have been victims of prejudice or racial divide. Lack of forgiveness will make you more prone to being a victim of prejudice.
All this together will maximize your self-confidence and self-esteem and empower you to reject prejudice.
Do your part in the universe: live a purpose-driven life, get rid of stereotypes, and you will subconsciously reject prejudice, because you will not be in a position to receive it or be placed in a box.
You'll be too busy living the life of your dreams!
Be permanently happy—do not receive prejudice, work on yourself, and be the best you can be.