Stereotypes are defined as the characteristics that are often ascribed to a specific group of people and mostly involve national, origin, gender, race as well as other factors that tend to be generalization or over simplification of the groups that are involved. Stereotyping often result to discrimination as well as stigmatization of the involved groups especially if they are largely negative in nature but also the stereotypes termed as positive can be harmful as well and this is attributed to their limiting nature (Florman, 1995).
Encounters with stereotypes
It is easy for one to believe that at this age and era discrimination has been rooted out in our society but it is common to come across discrimination based upon one’s gender, race, religion, age group or even those who are disabled or less fortunate in the society. Children have been taught to take care and help the poor as well as those with disabilities, the homeless the mentally challenged among others and this might make one belief that our society is the one that promotes equality at its best unfortunately it is not. I am a normal respectful teenage girl of average intelligence but based on my personal experience I have found out the opposite especially as it pertains to the prevailing discrimination against teenagers especially those who dress differently.
From the way I dress people stereotype me as a teenage ‘freak’ and by just looking at me they say a lot of things about me with others even going to the extent of saying I am into drugs. By simply dressing different I have been stopped countless times, threatened by arrests, sworn at simply holding a skate board or by just standing on a street corner. This is happening to me despite the fact that other teens do similar things and not word is said to them serve to stereotype me. Just from my dressing I am considered as depressed, Satanist, trouble maker, on drugs or even a witch. The problem of being stereotyped that way further impacts as people tend to act on these opinions for instance, getting a job had become hard simply because, by wearing a eye brow ring its considered ‘offensive’ despite the fact that I might be the most respectful and responsible person in the world.
Another type of stereotyping I have experienced happened when I was stereotyped as teenage brain in school. It was on a Friday afternoon when students were talking about a big party that was anticipated that evening that was organized for one of the girls in my class. A classmate sitting next to me turned and asked me if I was going to attend that party and even before answering him he broke in convinced that I would probably be at home doing my homework and study the whole night as my classmates attended the party. Such comment made me realize that I was being stereotyped as a brain limited and considering the fact that I wasn’t going to be at the party that evening made my classmates to believing that I was at home studying. Such stereotyping is mainly attributed with the brain stereotyping where anyone doing good in school must be a person who does and completes his or her work in time and often likes being the top student in the class.
Despite the fact that everything associated with the stereotype of the brain does not describe me, my classmates using my good grades throughout the school , I like learning new things and that schooling was not a problem stereotyped me as a brain (University of Toronto, 2010). This discrimination has really affected my morale when it comes to doing my assignments because despite the fact that I like do well in my grades the fear of my classmates stereotyping me to be a brain concerns me.
Finally, I also experienced stereotyping based on race. Other groups apart from Americans have been treated discriminately in the country in particular is the treatment of Muslims who are blamed for the September terror attacks. Muslims who had nothing to do with the bombing have been stereotyped as terrorist and have become targets of hate. This type of stereotyping has never being of personal concern until one afternoon when I and my family went to a grocery store where I witnessed three adult males were yelling at an innocent little girl who was supposedly of a Muslim descent. As we passed the store the three American men were screaming at the young girls and we did nothing to stop them as we just passed as if nothing was happening. They were cursing her calling her names and for fear of my parents reaction I said nothing to stop them.
It was after that experience that stereotyping based on race and religion became real to me. That type of stereotyping has not been the only one I have experienced as one day in a lobster store making my order, the family in front of me was Muslim and as they approached to make their order the owner of the store yield at them declaring that he doesn’t sell food to dirty a Muslims. That shocked me as I never knew that one could not be sold something based on their religion, color of skin or anything of the sort. In protest, I had to refuse to buy from the same store as I felt insulted that he refused to sell a lobster to that family just because they were Muslims and I had to go to another store instead. The problem with such stereotyping is that given that few Muslims decide to do something wrong does not mean every person who is a Muslim is wrong. Therefore such stereotyping is very wrong as it impacts the victims in many ways that are negative both physically, emotionally, socially ad even psychologically and should therefore be rooted out if the society is to coexist in peace and harmony (Health Education Researcher, 2008).