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Stereotyping is an age old problem that, due to human nature being what it is, will never be eradicated. Education is the key to lessening stereotyping and its effects. The eNotes questions and answers will help you understand a little better and hopefully manage the problem better:
stereotypes damage both the person or group that is stereotyped, and the person or group doing the stereotyping.
It is true that stereotyping
betrays a very simplistic way of looking at the world.
There are various ways for you to deal with it
- Recognise that they are actually a stereotype too as it is a certain type of person - usually an ignorant one - who will stereotype you, especially when he or she probably doesn't even know you - thereby making them a stereotype of that kind of person!
- Be proud that you are obviously a person or a group of people who have attracted attention and use this as a positive motivator - this makes you important if others stop to pay attention to you!!
- Do NOT worry about the motivation of the people directing their uninformed view towards you. They will move on.
- NEVER be confrontational.
- Use your energy for more objective means. Think about what makes you different and be glad you are more open-minded than many people around you.
- Reach out to other groups who are also stereotypical if you need support.
- Accept your differences and embrace them as they make you the person you are; whether you've suffered hardships because of this or just hurt feelings, this will all build your character and allow you to sympathise or empathise with others when they need your support.
- Finally, if you are in a position to do so, educate others on the destructive and restrictive nature of stereotyping.
Stereotypes are a product of the human brain's limited ability to process a huge amount of incoming information at a time. Because there is too much complexity in the world, we use heuristics - shortcuts that allow us to use generalizations and simplified reasoning - to help us move through our day without getting stuck. For example, if you are walking past a person alone on the street late at night, you may have only moments to decide if you think that person is friendly, violent, trying to sell you something, or contagiously ill. You use past experience and cultural knowledge to size up the situation in an instant, rather than standing there for hours painstakingly figuring it out.
Unfortunately, when heuristics are applied to groups of human beings, dreadful misunderstandings can result. Stereotyping is lazy and inaccurate thinking. It is also subject to the confirmation bias - when one sees a person from a stereotyped group, one may only notice aspects about that person that fit the bias that already exists. This is why just exposing people to more diversity may not be enough to shatter the stereotype. They actually need to experience aspects of the individuals from the maligned group that contradict the stereotype. This can be exhausting for someone from a minority group who feels like s/he must constantly prove people wrong or educate others who are ignorant due to stereotyped thinking.
To change the culture, it may be a combination of factors that produces the best results, not the least of which is the media. One heuristic that comes into play in human thinking is overgeneralizing from prominent examples in one's personal experience, meaning that if the media is featuring, say, African American gang violence, people overestimate how common it is and how many individuals are involved. It "seems" that it's "always" happening because of the media exposure. There can also be positive impacts - for example, the number of gay and lesbians portrayed neutrally or positively in mainstream media has grown.
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