Certainly the kind of groupings and stereotypes are so subject to history — that really interests me. For instance, if you’d asked the kids in my school when they were all about 12 what one could expect of, say, a Pakistani-Muslim boy in our class, our go-to image of that young man would’ve been of a rather tedious math or biology student heading for one of the better universities.
It’s funny, isn’t it? So these kind of racial stereotypes of groups, they have the ability to transform. I guess when I’m writing, part of what I’m insisting on is that whatever we’re living in at the moment is not, in some way, fundamental. Things are constantly open to change. And part of the thing which I find dangerous about some of the thought right now is exactly the suggestion of eternal states; so, that things have always been this way, they never could be any other way. Part of historical writing is to remind oneself … things were different, and therefore can be different again. – Zadie Smith on Fresh Air