This week, I realized the dangers of stereotypes after reading chapter 5 and watching Chimamanda Adichie’s “The danger of a single story.” I always knew stereotypes were bad, but I never thought of them to be dangerous. Having a discussion about stereotypes in class and hearing someone personally speak about her experience with stereotypes has made me realize the effect the media has in enforcing stereotypes and how big of an impact they have on the country we live in.
I loved how the book explained that we use stereotypes to organize and understand the complexity of the society we live in and the individuals that make up our society. Although some may not agree, I believe this is so true and makes so much sense. We live in a very complex world, and everyone is different and has different traits, not because of their race but often times because of their culture. The media and society attribute common traits within a group to race, and I think that’s where stereotypes become dangerous. I also loved how the book stated “we live vicariously through the media and experience large parts of out world indirectly through the mass media.” I LOVED this statement. We really do depend on media of all kinds to “live” and “experience” things we always wanted to. Especially with the dominance social media has taken in our society, people are even more likely to live through Instagram, or SnapChat or Twitter, because these forms of media can be personal accounts handled by real people. So, we see pictures and videos from around the world and feel like we have been there based off of what we’re seeing.
I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, to be interested in places and people in other parts of the world. However, I truly believe it becomes dangerous when we replace these things and people with reality. For example, someone who works as a recruiter for a company, may not recruit an African American because they believe they will always be late. This is a negative stereotype that can cost someone an opportunity.
I realized how dangerous stereotypes were even more after watching Chimamanda Adichie’s “The danger of a single story.” Placing a single story to someone is super dangerous. Whether positive or negative, you could be setting unreal expectations for someone or overly crediting them for something because you had negative preconceptions about them based on a stereotype. Adichie’s TED Talk made me realize that stereotypes are really enforced in America. I don’t know if it is because America is a very diverse country with so many people or so many different cultures, so stereotypes, as the book said, help us to simplify such a complex society. Or, it could just be that the United States has a more dominant media presence that enforces stereotypes in our mind on a daily basis. Either way, I don’t think stereotypes should be flowing so loosely around our culture and constantly being portrayed in media. This is why I would like to work in the media to break down these stereotypes so no one is labeled as something they are not.
Lastly, our discussion in class on stereotypes probably had the biggest impact on me. I say this because I chose to volunteer for an activity yesterday where I was labeled as a Black woman and the class shouted out stereotypes associated with a black woman, along with other women who volunteered including Latina, Asian and White. I did not know what to expect when I volunteered, as we were told what the activity was after we stood in front of the class. However, I’m really glad I did. I “experienced” what it felt like to be stereotyped very negatively, as I was labeled things like “ghetto,” “loud,” “baby momma,” and even “bootylicious” lol. I was really hurt to be labeled these things, as I don’t identify with any of them. I was expecting to hear words like “strong,” “independent,” “resilient,” and “beautiful.” But then I realized I lived in the United States of America and that is not what the Black woman is viewed as at all. I remembered we were shouting out stereotypes and all those words were words I thought about my race, not America. I realized that I too would have probably been shouting out some negative words if I were in the audience participating the way they were. Then I realized how big of an impact media has on all of us, even myself.