Almost everyone has been the target of a racial stereotype at some point due to their ethnicity. Stereotypes can be harmful and damaging to their targets if taken too far, sometimes to the point of bullying, depression or even suicide. Some people may also feel influenced by popular stereotypes to act a certain way or like certain things. On the other hand, they may be further driven to act complete opposite and prove the stereotypes wrong. Either way, we should not let stereotypes define our lives. It is important to keep in mind that stereotypes should not be a defining characteristic of ourselves.
While most stereotypes are negative, some can be positive when taken with humour. These are sometimes made into comedies and parodies. For instance, the “dumb blonde” stereotype has had a prominent presence in Western shows, where a young blonde woman is typically shown to be good-looking but unintelligent.
What are some of the other common racial stereotypes around us? If they have become common, is there any truth to their claims?
Caucasians are Racist
White people are often depicted as some of the most racist people. In history, it is true that many other races once suffered at the hands of white people, particularly in the United States. Nowadays, there are definitely still white people who are extremely racist, but this is not a white-only characteristic – there are also just as many racist people of other ethnicities. On the other hand, there are also plenty of non-racist white people, and there are yet other white people who are in the middle of the spectrum.
African Americans are Athletic
It is a common stereotype that all African Americans are basketballers or just athletic in general. This may stem from the fact that a good number of the basketball players we see on world teams are African American. In fact, over 80 per cent of professional basketball players in the National Basketball Association are African American. However, this statistic is hardly representative of the entire African American population, as there are certainly many other African Americans than African Americans on the basketball team. There are also as many basketball players of other ethnicities as there are African American basketball players, just that these other ethnicities may be more spread out or receive fewer media coverage. Furthermore, athletism is more of a skill than a genetic trait, so it does not make sense that a certain race is more inclined to have it.
Jews are Greedy
Jews are often portrayed as greedy misers who only care about money. This stereotype goes way back into the Middle Ages when a common profession among Jews was moneylending due to legal and religious regulations. It was also common for moneylenders to swindle their customers and charge excessively high interest. As such, for centuries to come, Jews would be seen as materialistic and greedy people. Many miserly characters in historical plays and novels, such as those by Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, were based on the stereotype of the greedy Jew.
Of course, not every Jew is rich, nor are they money-driven. There are plenty of wealthy non-Jews in the world, as well as non-Jews who value money. These days, moneylenders around the world are of all sorts of ethnicities. One is also just as likely, if not more likely, to be swindled by any other person than a moneylender. Although the stereotype has somewhat weakened in modern times, a considerable number of people would still be more inclined to believe that Jews are more thrifty, more likely to cheat or use shady practices, and have a higher economic status than non-Jews. A survey conducted in 2009 revealed that 31 per cent of Europeans believed Jews were the cause of the 2008 global financial crisis.
Asians are Smart
Whether in the United States or in the rest of the world, many people are familiar with the belief that Asians, especially East Asians, are smart and do well in their academics. Even if it is a stereotype, this is accurate to some extent due to the heavy emphasis placed on academics in Asian culture, including longer school hours than in the Western world. When compared to white and black students in the United States, Asian students may seem to be in the top-scoring percentage more often than not. In Western movies, Asians are rarely portrayed but are usually the smart character when they do make an appearance. The stereotypical smart Asian may be the star student, mastermind, scientist, doctor or genius. Although this stereotype may come off as a more positive opinion, it can also lead to negative outcomes in which Asians who do not outshine their peers may be pressured to perform.
As noted, not every Asian falls into the category of being a born academic. There are certainly exceptions to the stereotype that is not all that rare. For instance, Asian countries have their share of school failures and drop-outs. There are people of other ethnicities all around the world doing exceedingly well, topping their Asian peers. It is also worth noting that there is only a small percentage of Asians in the United States compared to blacks and whites, so cherry-picking the top Asian scorers among the other students may not yield a very reliable or accurate sample.
Hispanics are bad at English
It is a common belief that Hispanic people are not fluent in English or do not understand it at all, which is an unfair assumption based on the fact that just as Americans are fluent in English, their first language, Hispanics are also fluent in Spanish, their native language. This stereotype probably arose from the many Hispanic immigrants who came to the United States knowing very little English. However, they did not remain bad at it. The Hispanic immigrants were able to pick the language up very fast, quickly becoming fluent in English. Even today, many Latin Americans who have never been to the United States have a decent command of English, as they have picked up the language through using the Internet and playing video games. Although Hispanics may still converse in Spanish with each other, this does not mean that they do not know how to speak English. In the same way, white Americans may have picked up a second language, but they are still likely to use English when talking to a fellow American.
Most Hispanics quickly learn to survive in the English world when they come to the United States. In contrast, not many non-Hispanic Americans are fluent in another language besides English. Learning a second language is not compulsory in United States schools. As such, a large percentage of the US population remains monolingual. Similarly, people from other countries may also speak only their native language and very little English. The stereotype of being bad at English is not always true of Hispanics and not restricted to them.