Stereotypes: The beginning of an end

Stereotyping: The generalization about in a group in which certain traits are assigned to persons apart of the group, regardless of their distinctions.  In today’s society, stereotyping is more common than ever.  With an increasing number of African Americans facing ill fate because of their race, stereotypes have become narratives that we hear daily.  An article posted in the Huffington Post highlights the unjust and unfair result of stereotyping.  The article spoke about the Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin incident and how Zimmerman pursued Trayvon Martin simply because he looks suspicious, wearing a hoodie and baggy clothes.  This pursuit lead to Trayvon Martin’s death, as Zimmerman said he feared for his life. This begs the question, does stereotyping cause people to be more fearful of African Americans?

When we reason things out, we are taking the information that we have gathered and formed a conclusion based on that information.  Just as in deductive reasoning, we take a general scenario and narrow the focus to be more specific, while inductive reasoning is the opposite of that.  When we stereotype, we are basically profiling a person with the assumption that they fit the mold.  As an example, our deductive reasoning would suggests that according to the media, most African Americans are violent, therefore my neighbor Marc, must also be violent.  So, whenever I encounter Marc, my attitude towards him will reflect this reasoning.  Peter Bloom, lecturer in Organization Studies, Department of People and Organization at The Open University, confirms “In today’s America, racial fear is most obviously manifest in the widely held stereotype of African-American males as dangerous criminals. The image of the “violent thug” terrorizing the inner city and increasingly the suburbs remains a strong”. (para. 2).  As the media plays a vital role in showing stereotypes, there are also other sources that walk us down roads that lead to inaccurate perceptions.

Additionally, one of those roads is the use of heuristics are also used in the cases of stereotypes and they can lead us down the path to the wrong conclusion. Taversky and Kahneman write “people rely on a limited number of heuristic principles which reduce the complex tasks of assessing probabilities and predicting values to simpler judgmental operations.” (p. 1124). Often, it is easier to make judgments than to consider all of the variables involved, as heuristics offer a quick solution to solving problems. As an example, I saw a woman that was in her car and she saw an African American walking in her direction.  The use of heuristics caused her to lock her car door and put her purse under her chair.  Of course, there was really no need for her to do that, as it was my husband coming back from his deployment. Relying on heuristics definitely lead her to a faulty conclusion.

To conclude, I believe that stereotypes cause people to be more fearful of African Americans.  Stereotypes are first and foremost one of the most inaccurate perceptions a person can make about another.  If we continue to engage in these behaviors without at least attempting to reduce them, this unfair treatment will continue to persist much longer than it has to.

References

Bloom, Peter. (Nov. 2011). Racial Fear-mongering and Ferguson: US stereotypes of violent African American Men as old as slavery.  Retrieved from: http://juancole/2011/11freamongering-stereotypes-american-html

Tversky, A., Kahneman, D., (Sep. 1974). Judgement Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. The US National Library of Medicine National Library of Health. 158(4157): 1124-31.  Retrieved from: PubMed. PMID:17835457

1 thought on “Stereotypes: The beginning of an end

  1. Paul Andrew Naeger

    I really enjoyed your blog post on stereotyping and how it relates to current events an news in todays real world. Also does stereotyping cause people to be more fearful of African Americans? Im sure there is evidence to support this, however stereotyping can also cause people to be more fearful of white people as well. I could easily flip this stereotype around and say that since a white person grew up in the trailer park that chances are he could be an outlaw criminal because he grew up poor. I understand what you are saying and I agree with you. The use of heuristics makes people make quick and easy judgments not necessarily the best ones.

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