December 04, 2008

Positive stereotypes are negative

Of Polls and Race Prejudice:  Sports Illustrated "Errant 'Indian Wars'"Of course, even so-called positive stereotypes are ultimately negative. First all stereotypes fail to recognize diversity among the people who are being stereotyped. Second, so-called positive stereotypes often justify problematic practices. For example, the stereotype of Asian Americans as a model minority ultimately suggests that there should be no actions undertaken to reduce racial inequality and other people of color should just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Most people deny that they believe any racial stereotypes, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. When we do notice our own stereotyping, it is often because our beliefs are very negative (e.g., believing that African Americans are criminal or Puerto Ricans are lazy). When our stereotypes are "positive" (e.g., Jews as good at business or Asians as smart), we tend to think that these beliefs are not stereotypical and thus not racist.

Sport mascots are based on what is today perceived as "positive" ideas about Native Americans: that they are brave, principled, persevering, good fighters. This "positive cast" to the mascot stereotype leads most to conclude that the mascots are not racist. In fact, it is this "positive cast" to the mascot stereotype that leads many mascot supporters to think that the mascots actually counter racism by "honoring" Native Americans (King, 2002; Sigelman, 1998; Spindel, 2000).
Comment:  I touch on this subject in various places on my website. For instance, in Smashing People:  The "Honor" of Being an Athlete.

Below:  "I'm honoring you, you stupid Indians. Now get out of my face so I can watch Chief Illiniwek."

No comments: