What is a stereotype? In social psychology, a stereotype can be defined as a belief or thought that has been given to/ or about a specific group of individuals (Hilton & von Hipple, 1996, p. 240)
(W. 337). These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect the reality of these individuals, but these stereotypes are not always seen as negative. Some stereotypes are meant to come off as a positive and an encouragement to that specific group. An example of a stereotype that is meant to seem positive is the, “All black people can dance/ have rhythm,” or the “All Asian are good at math.” While these two example do not seem like they can cause issues because of their positive tones, they can also hurt those affected by this stereotype.
Being a Black male, I have been constantly stereotyped throughout my life. While most people tend to focus on the negative stereotypes that are out there, I like to think about the “positive” stereotypes and the affects they have on those in that specific group that don’t quite fit into the stereotype. Stereotype threat, which is the fear or thought that you will be an example that confirms that specific stereotype for that specific group (Steele & Aronson, 1995), can be used to describe how people are affect by both the positive and negative stereotypes.
Not only did I struggle with trying not to live up to the negative stereotypes about Blacks, I also struggled with not being able to live up to certain stereotypes that many see as a “part of being Black.” In high school, I was stereotyped as the athletic Black kid before even stepping on a court or field, only listens rap music, and a good dancer. Not bad to have those stereotypes applied to you, unless you do not fulfil those stereotypes. Out of those three examples given, I only fulfilled one, being athletic. So naturally, when people began to notice I didn’t fall into those stereotypes, I got reactions like, “You’re black, you’re supposed to have rhythm and be able to dance” and “You don’t listen to rap? You’re not black.”
There are certain stereotypes that are associated with different ethnic groups, and for me, when I did not live up to those associated with my ethnic group, I felt as though I was not apart of the group. As if I did not belong. Even though they are meant to be positive or seen as good, “positive” stereotypes can still have a negative affect on those associated with that stereotype.
(W. 337) W., Schneider, F., Gruman, A., Coutts, M.. Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems, 2nd Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc, 10/2011. VitalBook file.
(W. 338) W., Schneider, F., Gruman, A., Coutts, M.. Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems, 2nd Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc, 10/2011. VitalBook file.,