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Should Societal Stereotypes be Eliminated?

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Stereotypes

Stereotypes persistently remain prevalent in American society as well as an ingrained part of the nations’ socialization process, primarily seeking to transmit a patchwork of orthodox inaccurate images and clichés over different generations. Stereotypes draw from preconceptions that are based on contemporary information sources about particular individuals and the selective perceptions augmented to explain their behavior. Stereotypes are constantly used as means for justifying specific prejudices, as well as strengthening one’s own self-image, in an attempt to degrade others for accentuating one’s own humanity.

Often false and misleading, stereotypes can be identified as misleading generalizations that remain largely immune to counterevidence. Resultantly, stereotypes profoundly affect the stereotyping individuals’ perception of the stereotyped group, identifying stereotypic characteristics even when they are not present (Yang). The most insidious effect of stereotypes lies in their ability to weaken critical thinking, while serving as a major source of disinformation about others, particularly minorities and women. Individuals rarely challenge the stereotypes they encounter on a daily basis, simply accepting them as representations of reality in an attempt to perceive them in a mannerism similar to valid generalizations based on accurate data (Yang). Nonetheless, reality has proven them to be otherwise.

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Stereotypes present standardized mental images that reflect an oversimplified opinion, about a group of individuals, having little to no ascertainable basis in fact. However, it remains imperative to recognize that stereotypes accurately reflect the social reality of unequal relations within the society and in the world. At the same time, stereotypes must be identified as being false and misleading, and not as politically correct or incorrect, positive or negative, and advantageous or disadvantageous. Nonetheless, the advantages and disadvantages of stereotypes, as well as their positive effects, pertaining to a particular race, culture, or ethnic group, warrant attention. Perhaps, the most popular study on racial stereotyping was performed in the year 1933 by Katz and Braly, who reported the outcomes of a questionnaire undertaken by students of Princeton University. The study epitomized that the students held numerous negative stereotypes, having expressed no difficulty while responding to the questionnaire.

The student body at that primarily comprised of Caucasian Americans whose perception of other ethnic groups included visualizing Jews as mercenary and shrewd, African Americans as lazy and happy-go-lucks, and Asian Americans as shrewd and sly, while depicting Caucasian Americans as being intelligent and industrious people (Katz and Braly). An evidential pattern of stereotypes favoring the race of the holder while belittling others becomes apparent. For developing a more comprehensive cognizance pertaining to the construct of stereotypes, it remains imperative to identify the underlying paradigms that govern its existence.

Yang (2011) writes a lengthy controversial paper on the lives of Asian-American men within the United States. In his paper, Yang illustrates numerous stereotypes associated with Asian Americans on a daily basis including, but not limited to, work difficulties, social dynamics, and difficulties with women. The article also explores aspects of Asian parenting, acknowledging the deep roots of cultural traditions, and the detectable ways in which they may express themselves. Yang elucidates the negative effects stereotypical behavior can potentially have, depicting Asian Americans in a constant state of inherent perceptual and cultural disadvantage that significantly affects their confidence. The matter at hand no more pertains to the existence and validity of stereotypes, but rather what may be done to overcome them.

Numerous individuals and scholars have postulated stereotypes as being applied with rigid logic, having a certain basis in fact. However, stereotypes must be recognized as oversimplified generalizations that attempt to assume out-group homogeneity. Furthermore, working at a profoundly general level, stereotypes can little values as accurate predictors (Berg). Drawing primarily from ethnocentrism and prejudice, stereotypical categorizations have little value as accurate predictors. Additionally, being generalizations, stereotypes remain conveniently ahistorical, while attempting to attempting to omit the out-groups’ sociocultural, political, and economic history (Berg). Within the contemporary American society, stereotypes have become a prevalent norm that continue being believed, with repetitions tending to normalize them.

Asian Americans have continuously been designated as the “model minority”, stereotyping them as a group that has attained profound success within the American nation (Yang). Positive stereotypes refer to a seemingly favorable about a social group, including Asian Americans being perceived as mathematical wizards, African Americans as individuals with inherent athletic abilities, and Caucasian women as being beautiful, self-absorbed, and shallow. However, even positive stereotypes have been evidently associated with numerous negative outcomes (Lombrozo; Cocchiara and Quick). Towards developing an enhanced perspective pertaining to the positive and negative contributions of stereotypes, it remains crucial to explore the associated advantages and disadvantages.

  • Stereotypes can be useful in making quick generalizations pertaining to a particular individual or group, and if used judiciously, can be powerful aid for communication
  • Stereotyping helps in categorization of individuals into different groups, helping one formulate expectations from individuals and groups in an attempt to make life easier to comprehend
  • Stereotyping deserving celebrities in a positive way, and projecting them as role-models can resultantly help increase the self-esteem of the celerity, while propagating positive values within the society
  • Certain individuals may favor being stereotyped in an attempt to be judged quickly come clearly across to different individuals
  • Stereotyping someone by associating them preset qualities and attributes can be an unreliable way of judging them and resultantly offend the individual
  • Owing to their physical appearance, individuals from similar ethnic origins are often grouped together as people sharing the same ideals and beliefs, while things are often not what they seem (Yang)
  • Stereotypical behavior, particularly racially motivated ones, can have adverse psychological, sociocultural, and physiological outcomes
  • Stereotypes can create numerous problems in social situations like workplace, schools, and local communities (Yang)

Not much relevant literature exists illustrating the existing stereotypical perceptions about Caucasian Americans. This paper remained primarily focused on the stereotypes about Asian Americans, and African Americans in the US. However, this form of selective analysis can be perceived as yet another stereotype wherein the minorities as generally perceived as being victims to stereotypical behavior. However, even under unbalanced scenarios, stereotypes can go the other way, from subordinate minority to the dominant majority (Berg). One can attest from personal experiences that stereotypes of White women perceive them as ethnically generic women, identifying them with attributes that are generally opposite of the stereotypes associated with the stereotyping individuals. Furthermore, prevalent societal stereotypes significantly resonate with media’s perception of White women, categorizing them as self-absorbed, beautiful, and shallow individuals.

The contemporary American society represents a conglomerate of individuals from different cultural, social, racial, and ethnic origins. Resultantly, stereotypes associated with different groups abound in the American nation, having been associated with negative psychological, physiological, sociocultural, and behavioral outcomes. While stereotypes can have profoundly negative impact on an individual, they persistently remain a prevalent norm. Reducing stereotypes warrants a multidimensional approach that primary seeks to educate individuals about myriads of cultures and traditions in an attempt to integrate the values of cultural relativism. Also, individuals need to be motivated for learning the facts associated with different cultures, rather than stereotypes. Lastly, feelings of prejudice and ethnocentrism need to be discouraged for impeding the growth of stereotypical behavior.

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