Posts Tagged ‘labels’

Combating the stereotype habit is just like any other tendency, or addiction. First you should understand how habits are constructed. Habits are just patterns followed repeatedly enough to where it’s almost second nature. It takes three characteristics to make up a habit; knowing how, knowing why, and having the drive to do so. If you can eliminate any one of these traits, you eliminate the habit.

If someone knows why people stereotype and wants to stereotype people, but doesn’t know how to stereotype, it’s not a habit.

If someone knows how to stereotype and wants to stereotype people, but doesn’t know why the do it, it’s not a habit.

If someone knows how and why they stereotype people, but they don’t want to, it’s not a habit.

I will be the first to admit that this is much more easily said than it is done. It is very hard to break people from the habit of stereotyping, just as it is for any other habit because it’s about reconditioning the mind to do something that took years to discipline itself into doing. However it is this simple and you can go about breaking the habit in different ways. You can counter any of the three with a new habit. Having to re-consider why something is done is an easy approach. Commonly, when people are exposed to new reasoning on “why”, they soon loose the drive to do something as well. The how and drive are the hard characteristics to topple, particularly the drive.

Even more, how do you break the habit of an entire nation and society? One theory that has proven effective is disaster. When 9/11 happened most people lost sight of what they saw in groups of people. Everyone lent a helping hand and pulled through the catastrophe. Most people lost sight of why and for a moment in history (until the blame game) people were united in an effort to help their fellow man and woman regardless of what they looked like. As beautiful as it was, it’s just not practical. We cannot have a catastrophe every month until the American people are conditioned. By then there simply wouldn’t be enough people to care.

In my opinion a more practicul start to the solution is attacking advertisers and the media. It sounds so rebellious but when you look at it, they play off the most stereotypes just to push what they’re offering on groups of people. Television networks like BET, Mtv, and LMN play on groups of people of race, age, and gender. Products and advertisers use ways to market toward people all the time. Is it me or is every product marketed towards African-Americans playing urban music in the background? It’s funny and holds some truth, like stereotypes, but look at how serious it is and it’s effectivness. I really hope I have shed some light on the subject and the small steps we can take toward helping the issue. It’s a shame America has so far to go in this struggle. My search for understanding on this subject is far from complete and if you feel I’m lacking in some of things I say, feel free to tell me.  Next time you have a chance, think of an ethnicity and what first comes to mind when you think of it, then talk to someone of the descent. It’s cool to see what you have in common in contrast to what you may already be conditioned to thinking.

What problem can you think of that most people do but most people don’t do anything about? No, it’s not laughing when seniors drool. “Ill be short and sweet…lol…stereotypes!!!” was a topic suggested by a friend of mine so lets talk.

Stereotypes are used by just about everyone who doesn’t live under a rock both mentally and verbally. I say it’s one of the most talked about things but never acted upon because of the vast amount of people who use stereotypes everyday versus those who see it as deviance and doing something about it. It’s almost a new age taboo that’s become such a standard it falls shy of being an everyday commodity.

Stereotypes are harsh generalizations about an entire categorie of people. These  irrational views give people rigid views of groups of people when really there is no direct evidence that people of that categorie should share that generalized trait. Such views as white youth being prone to taking lives in retaliation to bullying or black youth being prone to stealing are so conditioned in society that it is often joked about and those who fall into the categories are exploited. This conditioning builds unwanted attention to anyone who outward appearance fits the description. This also allows for some to get away with deviance when they don’t fit the type by exploiting the idea of stereotypes.  There is also such a thing as positive stereotypes, where a particular group is seen as possessing a good trait among other groups. These stereotypes, such as people of asian descent being good at math or African Americans are better dancers, put an unwanted strain on someone who doesn’t fit the portrayal, or status quo.

Stereotypes, or prejudices, also leads to a scapegoating. Scapegoating is when people of a particular catagorie unfairly blame people of another catagorie for their own problems. Such as when people of lower middle and the working class may feel strain and notice financial change in their world, they may blame people on welfare or even immagrant workers for the strain on jobs and financial woes. It all traces back to those irrational views of a group of people.

So why do we do it so much? The answer is hierarchy (Short and sweet). Hierarchy simply is a system of rank in any society and stereotypes only help to inforce this idea. By enforcing that people in one categorie do one thing and people in another do differently creates a classification, or logical order, of everyone in society. For example, If people commonly agree that African Americans are lazy, what’s going to stop a future employer from turning someone of African descent down for a future job or referring him to a lower, more subordinating employment? If people commonly don’t see Euro-American males in business suits as thieves, what’s to stop a store owner from not watching the guy in the suit and paying attention to the working class Mexican shopping? Stereotypes form and invoke the structure of people’s standing and class in society. When some people have noticed the system, they play up or play down parts of their lives to stand apart from those who are seen as “fitting” the stereotypes.

So what can we do? I was struck recently when my uncle commented on one of blogs and said,”…What do you think of when I say the words “Apache-Indian”? Do you think Doctor, Lawyer, Businessman or Statesman? I would guess you don’t and I ask you to ask yourself why? Your answer is the key to truly understanding and fixing the problem…” It wasn’t until then that I realized the conditioning and habit society has with stereotypes. BUT I am a firm believer that habits can be broken….

I know I am not alone on this subject. To me, what allows for some of the prejudice and slant views of groups in society from others is when groups “claim” certain things as their own. Come on, nobody likes that kid on the playground that wouldn’t share his toys. With that said lets tackle Black History Month.

Black History month was started back in  the late 20’s by Carter G. Woodson, a historian. It began as “Negro History Week” and soon became “Black History Month”. The month of February was chosen because Abraham Lincoln(Feb 12th), our 16th president, and Frederick Douglass(Feb 14th), an abolitionist amoung other things. The purpose for Black History Month was to explore the history of blacks in society because Woodson and others alike saw that blacks were misrepresented, overlooked, and neglected as a functioning part of society. Blacks were often seen as slaves with descendants on the low end of the social scale according to history books, so Black History Month was seen to combat these views and show that blacks had more contributions to society.

I can see the importance of Black History Month during those times of extreme social stratification. I almost seems necessary to show the world that looks down upon you that you  have and have contributed more to society. Times have also changed and I don’t see the importance of Black History Month anymore. I can see the people running over the hills with pitch forks and burning stakes looking for me so let me explain a little.

First, calling it “Black” history month is a politically incorrect phrase. Remember, Black is terms of race and not ethnicity, so shouldn’t Black history month include Jaimaicans, Haitians, Barbadians, Africans, ect? My point is when you say “Black” let us not only mean “Non Hispanic African Americans”

Second, I can only say off of my experiences in the schools I attended, Black History month wasn’t really taught or shown to us. You would only see a couple of the same faces highlighted every year such as Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and Malcom X to name a few. We all know who Martin Luther King Jr. is and what he preached but I don’t know many people my age who can interpret his dream and tell me what it means to them. How many young people know what Malcome X stood for? The famous faces are highlighted but not taught.

Third, many people say Black History should be taught 365 days a year. So why celebrate a month? Just intigrate learning Black History into social subjects, which to my knowledge is done anyway.

My point is part of the problem with ethnicity prejudices in America is groups of people claiming or calling something their own. Though it may seem as if it’s a celebration of heritage, which I don’t deny that it is, it creates major separation in the American society. So my answer is create a “Cultural History Month” or “American History Month”. Let us celebrate all the great cultures and ethnicities that defines the United States! Puerto Rican, Vietnamese, German, Irish, African, Cuban, Japanese, Haitian, Indian, Brazilian, Native American, Mexican, Polish, ECT, and what ever ethnicities you can think of. Throw all of them in and embrace the history of all the people that make America the great country that it is.

The Beef with Labels

Posted: February 10, 2009 in Social Talk
Tags: , , ,

I like to talk about things often seen but not discussed too often. Social inequality in all forms is a big one for me. Maybe it’s because I am a minority myself but I feel that until we have social equality, we cannot be an effective society. It takes lots of unconventional and challenging thinking for people to simply understand other perceptions even if they don’t agree with them. I present my thoughts and views and hopefully with your thoughts, we can achieve common ground for prosperity.

I want to talk about the titles we give people of different backgrounds. I’m talking about the whole “black and white” thing. I am of African and Hispanic decent and it’s common for me to be recognized by the label “Black”. Though I’m only 22, I’ve often heard people speak of Blacks often complaining of what they are called and the name changes every 20 years. From negro to Afro-American, there has been many names over the years but there I feel there is a reason for it always changing: all the names have a stereotypical underlining and it creates separation.

Of course “Afro-American” is absurd in stereotyping a hairstyle besides trying to put a hip swing on “African”. “Negro” is just a half step away from the N-word so lets throw that out. To be honest I think (though its been rejected also) “colored” makes the most sense of all the names. “African-American”, to me, only applies to people who just immigrated from Africa to the US. They deserve the title once they gain citizenship. “Black” is just the new take on “colored”. How people want to be referred to as Black and not colored is beyond me. Black is usually associated with “bad” and “evil” in media, literature, and media, but by today’s standards, it also means urban.

I don’t know who blurred the line between “Black” (as in a specific American) and “Urban” (as in the hip hop culture) but they did a good job at convincing everyone else it means the same thing. I often hear people say to others of a different ethnicity “You’re trying to be Black” or “You’re not Black enough”. I think what people mean to say is urban but I understand it’s easier to just say Black instead of thinking about the connotations of your words and choosing them a little better. What happens as a result is your usual stereotypes because now there is no distinction between the Black culture and Hip Hop. I’m not saying that the Hip Hop revolution isn’t part of the Black community, but it’s not the only thing that makes it up.

So what works: Is it easy to just call every person of color “Black”, or just call everyone American, or how about “Nothing at all”? Last time I checked, I am American just as much as the next person regardless of their background. I can personally say I’ve heard accounts from friends of people from other countries referring to Americans as “Americans” because that’s how they refer to each other by the society they live in, no matter what color their skin happens to be. Why is it hard for us to not label each other? Far too often do I see “groups” of people separate from each other. It’s saddening that we appear to be the most diverse country to other nations, but when you really take a look we’re just a bunch of separate groups. Maybe the first step to a more diverse American society is to stop the group labeling. I don’t want to come off as if we aren’t a diverse society making great strides to equality. We have come a very very very very long way but the journey is far from finished.

No matter what “American” you are we are all American none the less. If you are like me and you were born here, grew up here, speak the native tongue, and live by  the American norms then you are American just like me. We all have more in common than we think. What do you think? Does anyone of any other ethnicity see or have these problems? I would love to hear what you have to say.