Argument against stereotyping


Brittany Minor, Web Editor

brittanyStereotypes as described by an atypical black girl

By  Brittany Minor/Web Editor

The first time one of my friends called me “white” I didn’t think much about it. The next time it happened, my answering offended silence was ignored and conversation continued as usual. When it happened again and the resulting snap of my voice went unheeded, I decided that this was no longer a game.
When my friends choose to call me white, I get offended, but I don’t get offended in the sense that I find it offensive to be called “white.” I get offended in the way someone feels after an acquaintance purposefully calls them out of their name.  It was the fact that, even after I spoke up to explain that I was in fact an African American and people continued to try to push this label on me, that aggravated and offended me. To be stripped of my identity because I’m not what people would expect is down right disrespectful.
Stereotypes are used to simplify the complexities of a thing or person and they are used most often to quickly and somewhat efficiently categorize these people or objects. Some stereotypes can be insulting, and some can be received as a compliment but what’s important is that all of these are based off of some inkling of truth. Stereotypes aren’t built of random ideas; they are a prejudice built off of observed tendencies. What people don’t seem to understand is that anyone would be hard pressed to find a person who will ever perfectly fit a stereotype, because people aren’t meant to. Stereotypes should be viewed more as a distorted chalk outline, rather than a set in stone guide to categorizing everything.
Stereotypes and other prejudice are just an adaptation of how humans come about knowledge. We use the things we’ve been taught and the things we’ve experienced to try to build more knowledge of the people in our day-to-day lives. We use our stereotypes and our prejudices as a tool and that’s all good as long as we learn to keep these ideas to ourselves. We should be able to think whatever we want, but we must learn to allow people to prove us wrong without trying to completely redefine who they are.
When I talk about stereotypes I’m not just talking race. I’m talking gender, religion and age and everything in between. We must also keep in mind that quite frequently people only allow us to see what they want us to see, and as humans we are easily deceived. Stereotypes are a very unreliable source of information.
Here, case in point, how easily I drop my vernacular whenever I feel like it. I’ve played softball and soccer my entire life, two sports dominated by everyone but African Americans. I listen to all types of music, but guaranteed whatever it is, Hip Hop, Jazz, or French House, it’s going to be blasting through my stereo. I’m not a fan of Kool-Aid. I can barely stand orange soda but watermelon is my favorite summer snack. I visit Starbucks a few times a week. My family gatherings usually involve good food, singing and line dancing and I despise when people purposely call me out of my name.
It’s not right to try to define people based on how well they fit into our definition of who they should be. It’s even worse to try to redefine people when they step out of the boundaries we’ve created for them. Some people are going to come with happy surprises, and some people are going to come with disappointments but it is not up to me to try and tell them who they are.