Stereotypes. I’m young, so I must be naïve. I dye my hair crazy colors, so I must be starving for attention. I get straight A’s, so I must have no social life. A stereotype is defined as a fixed, overgeneralized belief about a particular group or class of people. It is a way for people to oversimplify the way people are or how they act. Stereotypes distinguish people by separating the social world into different categories and distinguish others from oneself.
“You judge someone based on what their activities and how you perceive them,” sociology teacher, Coach Beck said.
The problem lies in the assumption that all people of a group are the same. Much of stereotyping comes from high school. Students are stereotyped and judged simply by what race they are, what they wear, how they act, or even how much money their families have. It might seem like the easy way of generalizing groups of people, however, it has a multiple of negative effects. Although stereotyping seems harmless, it can lead to racism, discrimination, prejudice, and bullying.
Students face the extra battle of succeeding in school, but they might also be trying to break out of the niche in which society has placed them as well. TV shows, videogames, and movies have greatly influenced the way we stereotype – just look at The Breakfast Club or Mean Girls. These movies influence people by giving an inaccurate idea how important or unimportant they are and where they stand in society. For instance, in the Breakfast Club, the movie follows the story of a brain — Brian, an athlete — Andrew, a basket-case — Allison, a princess — Claire, and a criminal — Bender. These descriptions are given to generalize a particular group of people. These stereotypes don’t seem to be that harmful, however, they can be much more hurtful to the victims of stereotyping.
“It makes them feel divided among people and that they can’t hang out with certain groups,” sophomore Emily Comer said.
People can be affected by hearing stereotypes and turning what they hear into a reality. For example, saying ‘all blondes are dumb,’ will discourage them and lead them to believe that they are dumb.
“When you constantly get told so many things, like if you’re an athlete and you are told you are not intelligent, you are gonna start believing them,” Coach Beck said.
There is the debate that some stereotype remarks sound racist. So what is the difference between racism and stereotyping?
Many people find it hard to differentiate between racism and stereotyping. For instance, if a person sees an African-American walking down a dark alley, they are nervous that they will steal something. Someone might wonder, is that being racist or just negatively stereotyping? It’s actually just stereotyping that African-American people are untrustworthy.
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“Racist is like an ingrained attitude and a lot of times it is very hateful, whereas with stereotyping, you are making snap judgments and you just assume that everyone is like that,” Coach Beck said.
People don’t realize, but one way or another, they stereotype others. However, even if stereotyping in your head is inevitable, saying it out loud to someone, is optional. Because stereotyping can have negative effects, the best thing to do is try not to let stereotypes define someone.