The truth behind generalizations

My heart goes out to the family, friends and colleagues of Const. Daniel Woodall.

My heart goes out to the family, friends and colleagues of Const. Daniel Woodall, the hate crimes officer who was gunned down in Edmonton last week.

The tragedy that took hold of west Edmonton is a reminder of the ever-present danger police put themselves in and the bravery of those who don the badge.

Having spent around four years living in Edmonton, and prior to that growing up three hours away, this one hit close to home.

It was heartwarming to see the outpouring of support for the Edmonton Police Service, even notions as small as the changing of Facebook profile pictures to the EPS patch worn by Edmonton officers.

Not everyone was willing to use the soapbox that is the Internet to show their support. No, some people picked the worst possible moment to, in so many words, say a phrase made popular by former rap group N.W.A. I won’t repeat it here, that’s what Google is for.

Too soon doesn’t even begin to cover it. Yes, police should be held to a higher standard of scrutiny than most; yes, abuse from police is real and should always be investigated with the public’s interest at heart, but find another time and place to make your argument. Save those comments for the officer who broke up a Texas pool party, waving his gun around at a bunch of teenagers like it was made of candy and shot out lollipops.

What I get from the dichotomy of these events seems like an ever-present truth, no profession is perfect.

There are good doctors and bad doctors, bad journalists and good journalists, good people and bad people.

Generalizations are dangerous, and used far too commonly in print, or even in everyday conversation. If you start a sentence with “Police always …” or “Hockey fans are …” or, my personal favourite, “The media …” then I can guarantee without a doubt that whatever follows is going to be factually inaccurate.

We as humans like to group things, to make sense of the gigantic scales of the Earth that our five senses are barely equipped to understand. This gets dangerous when dealing with groups of people. It happens all the time in politics.

“The conservative right thinks …” Let me stop you right there, no they don’t. You’re generalizing to make your point. Joe Blow might vote conservative for fiscal reasons, maybe his views on abortion differ, and that goes for every one of the thousands of unique conservative voters out there.

It reminds me of Kevin O’Leary warning us all that the sky was falling and that oil companies (a generalization) weren’t going to work with Rachel Notley’s orange Alberta. Nice try Kevin, but a swing and a miss.

Generalizing race is a common practice as well. Phrases like “Black voters …” or “First Nations voters …” are a good way of summing up some data, but those statements aren’t off to a good start as far as being truthful or accurate. They’re really just talking points.

My aforementioned favourite “the media …” gets thrown around just as often as “the cops …” — but can the thousands of people who are essentially just doing their jobs, with different values, races and religions really get lumped together as one big metaphorical vulture? I would say not, but hey, I’m one of those vultures, so I’m a touch biased.

Pobody’s nerfect, and it’s a common political tactic that many don’t seem to realize is the status quo: pick one person associated with a group that makes them look bad, and draw the focus their way to further your own agenda, right or wrong be damned.

Just remember when you go to write an insensitive comment that, while you may not agree with their career choice or values, police, lawyers, doctors, chefs and students are groups made up of people, each their own unique person who eats, sleeps and breathes just like you.

We’re all in this together, at least until we set up base camp on Mars.

Dale Boyd is a reporter with the Penticton Western News.


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