A stereotype is a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people. Ignorance is the unawareness or lack of knowledge about something. Because stereotypes do not account for the exceptions to a stereotype, a stereotypical statement is an ignorant statement. Not showing that there are exceptions doesn’t give people full knowledge about the group(s) being stereotyped, and allows the ignorance to continue.
Stereotypes form the basis for prejudice and, sadly, can sometimes become self-fulfilling prophesies for those defined having them. What’s really sad is when people throw out stereotypes about their own group for comedic recognition, not realizing and/or caring that they’re laughing at themselves. People who indulge in stereotyping others are insensitive and uncultured. Those who stereotype themselves are allowing others to think it’s okay to unjustly categorize a group of people different from their own. Both parties are indulging in ignorance.
The media partakes in a vicious cycle, repeating learned stereotypes and, in turn, reinforcing, validating, and perpetuating them. Overtime, they become apart of the narrative itself; anticipated and typical. The purpose of stereotypes is to maintain the status quo by defining others. It affects people’s lives by shaping their opinions, attitudes, and beliefs because the media positively represents and endorses prevailing stereotypes. Stereotypes can also affect us on a personal level and impact our own self-image, performance, and interactions with others.
We develop stereotypes when we are unable or unwilling to obtain all of the information we would need to make fair judgments about people or situations. In the absence of the “total picture,” stereotypes allow some to “fill in the blanks.” Our society often creates and perpetuates stereotypes that often lead to unfair discrimination and persecution when the stereotype is unfavorable.
We are resorting to prejudice by ascribing characteristics about a person based on a stereotype, without knowledge of the total facts. By stereotyping, we assume that a person or group has certain characteristics. Quite often, we have stereotypes about people who are members of groups with which we have not had firsthand contact. If you are unaware of the traits of a certain group of people and continue to pass generalizations onto them, you are partaking in ignorance.
Stereotypes are not just limited to race, but also sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, and more. I encourage those being unjustly stereotyped to speak on it. I encourage those who stereotype themselves to refrain from doing so. Lead others in a more tolerant direction. Once done, people may respect each other more, and stereotype less. I encourage those who are bothered by stereotypes, though they are not necessarily toward them, to speak up as well. Maybe you can open the eyes of those in your group that find enjoyment in stereotyping others. Maybe they will take from you good habits and pass them down to their children, reversing the perpetuating, vicious cycle that is stereotyping.
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