Stereotypes are harsh generalizations commonly used, but most people do not bother denouncing them; one of our first few workshops did just that. We sat in a circle with our Bosnian peers and the founders of CIM, Vahidin and Mevludin, challenged us to explore stereotypes. We were forced to choose one of nine groups that we most identified with—African American, American, Bosniak, Christian, Female, Immigrant, Male, Muslim, and (Bosnian) Serb—which posed a challenge to several of us. It is difficult to separate yourself into one group when we feel a part of so many different groups. Each section presented the stereotypes for that particular group. What first seemed like an easy workshop turned into an emotional one for many. Several of us came to realize that common stereotypes can be extremely hurtful to others. Many also learned stereotypes that they had never known or even considered before this activity. I found it interesting to compare typical stereotypes for a certain group in Bosnia to the stereotypes for that same group in the United States. Certain stereotypes were the complete opposite for the same group in these two different countries. For example, in America Christians are often stereotyped as strict and closed-minded, but in Bosnia Christians are often stereotyped as the exact opposite. This workshop ended with one of our Bosnian leaders ripping up the lists of stereotypes that we had created and leaving us with a final message: stereotypes are hurtful and almost always incorrect. It is nearly impossible to rid our minds of all stereotypes, but we should avoid them as much as possible. Tearing apart the stereotypes among our peers brought all of us—Bosnians and Americans—closer together. We are from two very different places, but yet we feel that we can share anything with each other. In just a few days, our Global Kids AYLP group and our Bosnian peers have become a true family.
by Alexandra G.