Sunday, December 13, 2009

On Stereotypes

(This is Cole not Will, apparently my account no longer works...)

There are two sides to this coin. The side more often represented states that everyone should try to be equal and calls for an end to stereotypes. I think this is good. But I feel like it unevenly distributes the blame and responsibility. I don’t think it is appropriate to tell someone how he should think and judge others. The problem people have with stereotypes is that they make generalizations about a group of people that do not necessarily apply to every individual within that group. If they did, then people couldn’t complain because the stereotype would be true. However, the fact is, stereotypes are not unfounded. They do not come into being simply out of a whim. A stereotype is something that has been observed to be at least somewhat consistent within a given group. The problem is, most stereotypes reflect a characteristics that their respective groups do not appreciate being “called out” on.

Like I said, as much as I wish it were not the case, stereotypes are not unfounded. Jews are stereotyped as tight with their money; unfortunately I have witnessed several Jews only affirm this stereotype. I know blondes that aren’t dumb, but there are obviously enough who are to make a stereotype out of them. I’m sorry if I offend anyone in saying either of these things. The point I am trying to make is that it is unfair to completely blame someone for stereotyping. These views are not unfounded, and the group is just as much responsible for embodying the stereotype as one is for acknowledging it. So yes it is unfair for someone to judge you based on external features such as your skin or your hair. However, that person is not completely to blame for his opinion. It does little good for me to tell someone that stereotypes are bad because they do not accurately characterize an individual, when in that person’s experience, the stereotype has in deed been realized nine times out of ten.

No, for stereotypes to cease this requires action from both sides. Instead of complaining about being stereotyped against, people who feel this way need to take an active stance in demonstrating the inaccuracy of such claims. You have no place to complain about a stereotype if you yourself only affirm it. For people to stop placing validity in stereotypes, the stereotypes need to be untrue. It is unfair to fault someone for having an opinion, if that person he has found his opinion to be reasonably true. I realize there are plenty of stubborn and closed-minded people with unwarranted prejudices. However, if we can expect to end stereotypes it will take action from both sides.


  1. One thing about stereotypes that I was unaware of until high school was that even the positive ones can be harmful. In many instances, some individuals of a certain group that is stereotyped as possessing a positive attribute may not possess that attribute, but they are expected to perform at the same level as their stereotyped peers. When they fail to live up to the stereotype, others can react as if the individual has let them down. For the sake of providing an example that does not involve religion, gender, or race, I will share a personal fact: I am painfully bad at basketball. However, seeing as I am above average in height, most people assume that I am a talented basketball player.

  2. We can not expect to end stereotypes, I think. They are a simple product of association and recognition, and as long as there are barriers separating us and differentiating us as specific groups of people, stereotyping will exist. I think that in some regards it is an intrinsic human function to acknowledge and formulate stereotypes. I would think that this at least explains the popularity of comedy based on stereotypes, to some extent.