A stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. It can affect our behaviour towards others and lead to biases in how we treat one another.
In the 1930s and 1940s, over six million Jews and millions of others, including Romanis, gay people and disabled people, perished at the hands of the Nazis. Much of the animosity towards people with different identities was fuelled by propoganda with little to challenge the onslaught of negative images, narratives and revisionist histories about people perceived as the ‘other’.
Many in the mass media and socio-economic and political institutions at the time developed and magnified stereotypes which were used to validate the persecution and murder of millions of people. Some of these stereotypes underpin collective and individual thinking to this day.
Cruel treatment and systematic genocide meant that at the end of World War II the United Nations agreed to set minimum standards of dignity to be afforded to everyone. These minimum standards became known as human rights and were recorded in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights . When carefully considered, these human rights help us to look beyond stereotypes. The characteristics of human rights are that they are:
Universal – human rights belong to all people equally regardless of status. Everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Inalienable – human rights may not be taken away or transferred. People still have human rights even when their governments violate those rights.
Interconnected – the fulfillment or violation of one right affects the fulfillment of other rights.
Indivisible – no right can be treated in isolation.
Non-Discriminatory – human rights should be respected without distinction of any kind, such as ethnicity, gender, language, national or social oirgin, or other status.
Stereotypes are divisive and need to be challenged to ensure that all of us are treated with respect and dignity. On a day-to-day basis this is fundamental to open dialogue, fair practices, honest communication and collaborative working. If you would like additional information or a summary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights contact Equality@bsuh.nhs.uk.