May 06, 2010

Stereotypes beget stereotypes

Recently I wrote about how Native stereotypes increase other stereotypes. Now a blogger has come to conclusions similar to mine. She makes the case that all stereotypes are related.

This Stereotype Affects You, Too

By Jenn FangWe usually think about racism as something that's motivated by racial hatred of a targeted ethnic group. Instead, this study tells us that even exposure to racial stereotypes appears to encourage an overall more black-and-white (pardon the pun) outlook on the world—even against unrelated groups. Thus, right-wing pundits and fear-mongerers who perpetuate the racist notion that all Muslims are terrorists (for example) doesn't just affect the Muslim community. It's likely to encourage anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-Native American and anti-Asian resentment and stereotyping as well.

It might seem like a discouraging finding. But I actually see this study's significance as positive. What more evidence do we need that in combating racism, coalition-building between minority communities is not only beneficial, but necessary? Further, it's not hard to imagine, given Dr. Kim-Prieto's data, that stereotyping effect extends beyond racism. In other words, I wouldn't be surprised if internalizing race-based stereotypes also encouraged gender-based, sexuality-based, and class-based stereotyping, as well. We need to build bridges there, too.

For too long, we've approached the struggle to end the racism (or other -isms) that we face as an individual battle. We've seen plenty of examples of divisive in-fighting that pits one minority group against another—as if we're competing to prove which of us is 'most oppressed' (something my friends over at Racialicious like to call playing "Oppression Olympics"). But here's convincing data to demonstrate that we're all up against the same problem. Despite all ideas to the contrary, we're really all in this anti-racism boat together.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.


Bryan J. Maloney said...

Been reading through your writings and came across this piece. Why did you feel the need to dig back over 50 years for the Asian stereotype picture? Wouldn't your case be far stronger if you used pictures of recent vintage. Otherwise, it's easy to just dismiss the complaint as no longer relevant.

dmarks said...

" that all Muslims are terrorists (for example) doesn't just affect the Muslim community. It's likely to encourage anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-Native American and anti-Asian resentment"

Technically, many of the Muslims involved in the stereotyping, such as Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and the 9/11 highjackers, are Asians also.

Rob said...

A couple reasons, Bryan:

1) I don't have a big collection of Asian stereotypes, and I'm trying to avoid "borrowing" people's images unless it's necessary.

2) I was trying to suggest the long history of stereotypes and their interactions in America. Roughly speaking, 500 years of Native stereotypes begat 250 years of Mexican stereotypes begat 150 years of Asian stereotypes.

Portraying this as a recent problem seems like a weaker argument to me, not a stronger one. People could dismiss it with something like, "Today's kids don't mean any harm. They just don't realize what they're saying."

The phenomenon is harder to dismiss when you realize it's been going on for centuries. After Euro-Americans demonized the Indians they killed or enslaved, it became easier to do the same with Africans. And so forth and so on with Latinos, Asians, and other minorities.