Positive Stereotypes: Unexpected Allies or Devil's Bargain?

In Benjamin Sherman & Stacey Goguen (eds.), Overcoming Epistemic Injustice: Social and Psychological Perspectives. pp. 33-47 (2019)
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If asked whether stereotypes about people have the potential to help overcome injustice, I suspect that many think there is a clear-cut answer to this question, and that answer is “no.” Many stereotypes do have harmful effects, from the blatantly dehumanizing to the more subtly disruptive. Reasonably then, a common attitude toward stereotypes is that they are at best shallow, superficial assumptions, and at worst degrading and hurtful vehicles of oppression. I argue that on a broad account of stereotypes, this is not is not an inherent feature of them nor a foregone conclusion about them. At least some positive stereotypes have the potential to help resist certain forms of epistemic injustice--though they likely can only play a limited or temporary role in this regard. The takeaway is that we should approach moral and epistemic analyses of stereotypes by thinking about them as (crude) cognitive tools, and as such, focus on what these tools are being used for, and what their actual impact is.
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