Stereotypes Only Ride on Uneven Surfaces
By: Jackie Lu
Boats have helped us travel across vast bodies of water and have assisted us to discover new lands. To some, the invention of the boat was a sign of new hope and dream; however, over time we have managed to develop submarines that allow us to expand our hopes and dreams to the deep sea. It is amazing to see the human civilization evolving so fast and accomplish so much in such little time. So why is it that we’ve advanced so far in technology yet so little in society? Why don’t we have the capability to utilize the ability to dive deeper , like submarines, into the world around us and understand others? Why do we still sit on boats and ride the on the waves of stereotype? There is no clear cut answer to these questions. Numerous studies have been conducted to explain why we commit to such evilness, and none have given us a clear answer. However, you don’t need a doctorate degree to understand that stereotyping is one major flaw in our society. Having lived in two different countries and two different states has taught me that new people will always use stereotypes to judge before knowing you.
So let’s get a better grasp of stereotypes after hearing me ramble about how bad stereotypes are. In the book Stereotypes and Stereotyping, C. Neil Macrae defines stereotype as “a structured sets of beliefs about the characteristics of members of social categories influence how people attend to, encode, represent, and retrieve information about others, and how they judge and respond to them.” In other words, it’s just another way for us to single out groups in our society based on certain belief of said group. This form of action can be harmful as it not only causes inequality, but closes the gap between individuality and group behavior. An article by ReducingStereotypeThreat.org supports the idea that stereotypes are a huge threat to one’s academic performance as well as to personal identity. The article proved this by displaying the results of an experiment conducted by Steele and Aronson, where a standardized test was given to a group of African Americans and whites. The African Americans performs poorly on the standardized test compared to whites when race was emphasized. However, when race was not emphasized, the test resulted in similar scores from both races. Through this experiment we can conclude that the power of stereotype is a real threat. With such threat looming over our society the danger of social inequality becomes a closer reality. Which may lead to the destruction of hope and freedom of those oppressed by stereotype
At this point, some of you must be asking whether all stereotypes are evil, and the answer to that is no. As homosapien we are born with some natural form of prejudice, which may lead to stereotyping sometimes. Thus stereotypes can be considered a necessity in society otherwise we would have no way to identify obvious things, such as knowing that someone with brown skin must live in a tropical region. However, the type of stereotype I call “negative” is the thing that is most destructive to our society. This so called “negative” stereotype is the evilest form of stereotype. The largest harm from this evil is that it classifies specific ethnic groups into a social category and causes social pressure on the group: racial stereotyping. Examples of racial stereotypes can be seen today with the recent attacks on Paris. After such attacks, we pointed our fingers at Islam for these atrocious acts against the west. Our absent minded governors of the United States took this opportunity to arm up their racial stereotypes by targeting muslim refugees, telling the public that Islam is dangerous, thus we shouldn’t let these “muslim” Syrian refugees into our country. An article by The Hill reports that governor Ted Cruz has already made a bill to ban Syrian refugees from entering the country simply because they are muslim. Even though the attack was conducted by ISIS who claim they are muslim,but obviously not because they go against most, if not all of Islam’s principal. It’s safe to say that the true atrocity of this attack was the way our society reacted simply because of racial stereotypes. It doesn’t take too much thinking to see that negative or racial stereotyping is a real threat to our society.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the negative stereotype can disguise itself as something positive. Such as the time I was at my uncle’s restaurant, where I was pelted with stereotypes like “is it true that Asians only eat rice” or “you must be smart because you’re Asian” which both held some degree of truth. I do love eating rice (honestly I eat like 2 bowls a day) and the intelligence part is debatable. Both stereotype weren’t necessarily negative, however, they are still a form of racial stereotype and do have negative effects. Some effects include having a massive social pressure to do well in school. Society has decided that because I’m Asian I must be smart, and if I don’t live up to that expectation, then I must not be a “full” Asian. This stereotype has often led to failure in academics for many Asians because they can’t meet the standard set by society. A good example is my cousin Billy, who as a child held top scores in every subject as a kid. However, as he got into high school he found it harder and harder to concentrate on school because of the overwhelming pressure by society. This pressure eventually led to his downfall of simply wanting to give up on school. Vice versa, African Americans suffer from lack of pressure to do well in school. An article by The Atlantic states African-Americans generally perform poorly in comparison to their white counterpart in college because our society often perceive “black” people as academically incapable. As a consequence of this stereotype the African-American population feels less of an urge to perform well in school because society has already put them in a position where little are expected of them. In both cases stereotype played as the key cause of failure for both ethnicities.
After hearing all of these horrible stories on stereotypes, it’s not hard to understand that a reform is needed. There needs to be a reform in the way we perceive people in our society other than racial and social stereotypes. The idea is to ensure that this generation marks the end to social inequality by stereotypes. An improved education system that will educate people about race and society will be the best solution to this issue. Teaching to youth to be more optimistic is one of the many ways to stop racial and social stereotypes. In our schools, stereotypes run amok and usually this is the birthplace for many of our current stereotypes. It is safe to say even the adults that teaches our kids are feeding them a form of bias information. So to start a process where schools are monitored more closely, that will further improve what should be taught to our childrens. Another way of keeping negative stereotypes away from our youth is better parenting. If parents stop the usage of negative stereotypes than the frequency of negative stereotypes in their kids will also decrease. For this to happen we need to ensure more PSA about proper parenting is issued. These are only some of many things we can do to stride for a negative stereotype world.
If you know someone who negatively stereotypes people, whether it be yourself or family, stop them and ask them this, “is any of what you are saying coming from experience with every single person of that ethnic group?” If the answer is no, then tell them to hush up because they have no right to label that group. It is our job this generation to finally put our foot down and start making strides for a better future. It’s okay for you to judge someone a bit before you get to know them. It’s okay to think to have thoughts about that person before you get to know them. It’s okay to have a natural stereotype. However, it isn’t okay to label whole groups of people and perceive them solely based on that thought. We have to end the negative stereotypes and ensure social equality without constantly being under threat by negative stereotypes. So let’s step off of our boats and jump into a submarine. Let’s explore the depths of culture and get a better understanding of the world around us. Only then may we stop this ongoing trend of negative stereotype.