Thursday, February 12, 2015

The snowball effect of stereotypes to discrimination

Racism and discrimination has been a part of America since the first landing of colonists in the New World. Many people don’t believe this but there have been many racial discrimination across different ethnic and nationality groups in America’s history. The English colonists past judgment on anyone who wasn’t English. Thomas Driver of the Huffington Post wrote, “Racism is so ingrained in the American experience that no one who has grown up here is free of it.” It’s true. We may think of ourselves as not being racist but people will be shocked on how a simple little thought like stereotypes lead to prejudices which leads to racism which leads to discrimination. 


Stereotypes are beliefs that unfairly places all people in a certain group with a particular characteristics. For instance, “all Mexicans are lazy,” “Asian women are bad drivers” and “all Middle Easterners hate Americans” are a few. Not all stereotypes are negative, some are place a positive light on certain groups but still place unfair generalizations to all members. For instance, “all Asians are smart,” “all African-Americans can play basketball,” and “the French are romantics.” We all can think of people who do not fit these descriptions but they would be lumped in with these stereotypes because they happen to fit a certain ethnic group.


Prejudices are unfair feelings of dislike for a person or group because of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc. This dislike is often unreasonable or illogical. How can stereotypes lead to prejudices? Think for a moment that you hold to the belief that all Mexicans are lazy and you, therefore, think that the Mexican family that lives down the street are lazy and mooching off the government for their needs. You think they are dirty because their yard may not be as pristine as yours? Do you really know that? Would it change your mind to learn that that family’s patriarch workers three jobs in order to provide for his wife and kids. The matriarch cleans every day to keep her house in order? Would it change your mind? Maybe, maybe not. If prejudices are firmly held regardless of evidence to the contrary, it will often lead to racism.


Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially characteristics to distinguish as inferior to another race. Same scenario, because you believe that the Mexican family is lazy and government moochers, you believe that you are superior to all Mexicans because you aren’t lazy and don’t have any form of government assistance. Because you believe that all Mexicans are lazy, you will probably treat all Mexicans you will met as if they don’t deserve to be in your neighborhood or even in your country. Never realizing the hardships they left to come here and how hard they work to stay in this country. You may even assume that that Mexican family are here illegally, never realizing that that family’s ancestors have been here since colonial America.

  

Racist beliefs can lead to discrimination. Discrimination is the treatment of a person or particular group of people differently, in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated. For example, you are walking by the family’s house and you decide to allow your dog to do his business in their yard and you wouldn’t think to do it to the house next door. Why? Because the house isn’t occupied by those “dirty Mexicans.” Would you want people to treat you differently simply because you belong in a certain group? I know I wouldn’t. I want to be treated as any human with dignity and kindness. I give the same smile and hello to the Muslim woman in a hijab as I do a Christian who wears the cross or a Jew who wears the Star of David.


In conclusion, I am very aware of the stereotypes and prejudices around me and I try very hard to avoid giving them any credence. I also get upset when my husband uses them, even as a joke, because I would like my children to be part of the first generation to be free of stereotypes and prejudices. Although they will probably learn them on their own, I want them to know that everyone doesn’t fit in the same box. There are always exceptions to the rule, that one outlier which doesn’t fit the pattern and it is wrong to assume that everyone of a certain group is the same. It will take a little work but it can be done.