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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Stereotyping is hurtful to our culturally diverse society

By Shiney KorbSpecial to CSMS MagazineSpanish people do not have any regards for time because they are always late. All fat people are lazy. All New Yorkers are rude. These are examples of stereotyping—the generalization about a particular group of people, race, or gender (Lustig and Koester, 2004). People in general are not born with the ability to stereotype. They learn to stereotype from their family, friends and relatives, the media, and fear of persons that are different from their own culture (Samovar and Porter, 2004). Often, stereotyping can cause friction and lead to communication problems between different cultures.Stereotyping can be either positive or negative. An example of a common positive stereotype is that all Japanese people are hardworking and intelligent. Realistically, not all Japanese people have the same characteristics; therefore, one should not assume that every single Japanese person is hard working and intelligent. An example of a negative stereotype is how the Native Americans are used as mascots for various sports teams (e.g., Chief Wahoo for the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves and their “hatchet chop”, the Washington “Redskins”). These particular mascots stereotype Indians as dark skinned warriors, riding on horses and wearing a traditional headdress. The mascots look like they just came out of a Wild West show from the 1950’s. For quite some time, the use of Native Americans as mascots has been controversial. Some Native American groups claim that the mascots do not offend them, however, other Native Americans argue that the mascots represent the Native Americans in the past and is not an accurate depiction of who they are in the 21st century.Furthermore, they say that the “Indian” mascots are a mockery of their heritage and culture, and it prevents other cultures from understanding the factual history of their people. Surprisingly, many white Americans have become aware of the fact that the Native American mascot is offensive and they are trying to convince the sports franchises to ban the use of Native American mascots.  More recently, colleges and universities have also jumped on the bandwagon, which resulted to a few of them replacing their Native American mascot.I believe that Native American stereotyping began when we were in grade school. Every year, American schools teach their students about the traditional Thanksgiving holiday. This would include students making Indian headdresses, tipis, and learning about how the Indians helped the Pilgrims grow the first crops. Although it is important to teach our children about the history of Native Americans and the significant role that they played in our Thanksgiving holiday, it is also important to inform students on the Native Americans’ modern way of life. If teachers take the extra step to educate their students, it will most likely prevent future stereotyping of the Native Americans.I am a white American; therefore, I don’t believe that I can have an objective opinion about this matter. However, I do know that there are other mascots that could easily offend other ethnic groups. For instance, the Fighting Irish at the University of  Notre Dame, the San Diego Padres, and the Minnesota Vikings are all mascots. For the most part, I don’t think that the sports mascots intentionally try to offend a particular group or culture. Furthermore, I also don’t believe that a mascot has any influence over an individual’s perception about a culture. I think that they are used for entertainment purposes only and most of the time the sports fans only care about winning the game.Most people have experienced some type of positive or negative stereotyping. Unfortunately, stereotyping is inevitable especially in the diverse environment that we live in. However, individuals need to be aware that stereotyping can have negative effects on the group of people that is being stereotyped, such as low self esteem, hostility, and possibly hate crimes.  We, as individuals, have the ability to put an end to prejudices when we can learn to recognize and put an end to our own stereotypes.Shiney Korb is a psychologist. She lives and works in Palo Alto, California. She wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.

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