Paint Me A Stereotype

The world is full of varied people with different personalities and characteristics. Separate from their personalities, every person on the earth is stereotyped based explicitly on culture and their appearance. Stereotyping is an unfair way to judge a person or a group of people regardless of where they come from or what they look like.

Stereotypings is the easiest way to avoid having to get to know someone and build a relationship. Unfortunately, not many will actually take the initiative to look beyond a stereotype in order to learn more about another person. Even if someone looks past certain stereotypes, does that necessarily mean that they will not judge their neighbor any longer? Sadly, stereotyping happens even within groups of long term friends. The group may not call it stereotyping, but they definitely exhibit some type of prejudice if they make jokes specifically geared towards a person’s ethnicity, nationality, culture, or any other characteristic.

To confidently cite the origin of a specific stereotype is not an easy tasks. Most stereotypes are heard by word of mouth or derived from certain behaviors. However, it can be said that history is the most well known breeding ground for stereotypes. Racial stereotypes in particular started in history. Historical events, such as slavery in the United States, form the modern negative prejudices of White and African Americans. A famous saying goes, “know your history or you’re doomed to repeat it.” If stereotyping is a result of not understanding history or letting historical knowledge prevent someone one from racial prejudices, then we were doomed to repeat the same historical misconceptions since they first began.

In a famous study of racial stereotyping performed by scientists named Katz and Braly in 1933, they found that university students uphold most negative stereotypes; stereotypes that can be traced back through history. Not much has changed since times of segregation and desegregation. Americans of any ethnicity can go to the same school, sit in the same classroom, but they will never be able to feel comfortable in an environment festering with unfair stereotypes.

Stereotyping can even be traced to more recent events. A fear has developed of Middle Eastern peoples due to events such as 9/11 and recent ISIS killings. Is it fair to say radical Islamic terrorist groups are indeed terrifying? To Americans and other nationalities, including their own, they might be. However, it is never fair to say that all Middle Easterners, whether they are Islamic or not, are terrorists in disguise. To make this judgement would be equivalent to saying every single person of every single ethnic group is the same as the most radical and unreformed amongst them.

Not all Islamics sure the beliefs of ISIS and not all Middle Easterners are Islamic terrorists. The Middle East is home to various religious from Judaism and Christianity to Zoroastrianism, a religion that was formed some 3000 years ago. Categorizing all people fitting into one of these two categories is the greatest disservice a person can do to themselves and the group their stereotyping. Most importantly, it creates a sense of ignorance no one wants to have on their shoulders.

Why do people stereotype? One source says “people don’t know enough about each other; instead of taking the time to learn who they really are, they just slap a description on them.” The source even admits an instance where stereotypes have lead to people believing and saying negative things towards them. “Girls have stereotypes against them too. So people think that girls are weak and they can’t do anything so people have definitely told me that I’m not strong enough to do certain things.”

Stereotyping is just a way for society to organize everyone. Another source uses this idea when asked the question, “Why do stereotypes exist?” Organizing everyone is an easy way to divide the different ethnicities and nationalities. It is far easier than getting to know a person one on one regardless of their physical characteristics, but where is the fun in that? Why get to know a person when their stigma has already defined them?

Thinking about things in this lense, why have a personality? Why is having good character such an important thing? What does a smile or laugh matter when all a person will see is the stereotype you fall under? Why have a name? Why have an identity?

The world is doomed to become a color coded map of stereotypes rather than regions. My preference is to be the one blending the colors.