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The Discussion on Race Part 2:

Understanding Stereotypes

By Patrice Mitchell
On February 11, 2016

    We’ve all heard variations of stereotypes: All black people love fried chicken, white people can’t dance, all Mexicans are illegals, all Irishmen are drunks, and all Asians are good at math. While these stereotypes, among others, are used for comedic purposes, stereotypes can get dangerous when attached to a political or social agenda to dehumanize or devalue a particular group of people. Social media and the 24 hour news cycle can breathe life into a situation, and apply a label to all people in a particular group based on one or few isolated incidents. Stereotypes can be funny in context, but they can also be very harmful.

    Saul McLeod, writer for Simply Psychology, states in a 2008 article on stereotypes  that “The use of stereotypes is a major way in which we simplify our social world; since they reduce the amount of processing [thinking] we have to do when we meet a new person. By stereotyping we infer that a person has a whole range of characteristics and abilities that we assume all members of that group have. Stereotypes lead to social categorization, which is one of the reasons for prejudice attitudes…”

    Getting caught up in believing stereotypes is easy to do; mainly because many of them are humorous and perceived to be harmless. Also, it is human nature to want to classify something in order to understand it better. However, classifying an entire group of people based on the personal actions of one isn’t science, it is ignorance. Stereotypes can be detrimental to the advancement of society when it pertains to racial relations. Also, stereotypes can often turn to racial profiling when they are used as part of an agenda to hurt a specific group of people. Right now, Islamophobia is a big issue throughout the world, and particularly in the United States. The issue is so apparent that even presidential candidates are pandering to the fear people have of Muslims, by proposing bans and vowing to refuse asylum to Syrian refuges trying to make it to the United States.

    Stereotypes in the news media and through TV shows can be the most dangerous because the message reaches mass amounts of people throughout the world. For example, news interviews that go viral often usually  perpetuate a particular stereotype.

    Having logic to identify when a stereotype is being applied to a situation is how we combat the negative stereotypes that cause fear, in-group and out-group divides, as well as hate and racial profiling. In my opinion, there is no good stereotype because that would imply that every person in that certain group fits into that category, which is nearly impossible.

    The discussion on race can’t even begin without acknowledging stereotypes and the damage that can happen when they’re used to generalize mass amounts of people. Hate crimes, prejudices in the work place, discrimination in politics, and racial tension across the country all start with the idea that the qualities possessed by the few apply to the masses: which is not true.

    Individual people should be held accountable for what they do, or how they act. An entire race, religion, gender, or group of people should be held responsible by attribution.

    With social, political, and civil rights issues occurring throughout the world today, generalizing anyone could honestly be the difference between life and death. For example, assuming that a kid wearing a hoodie looks “suspicious,” or that a man wearing a turban is a terrorist, or perhaps that all cops hate black men. The conversation on race starts with the discussion of stereotypes and understanding that they are not always fact.

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