A Class Divided: Then and Now

by William Peters

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With A Class Divided: Then and Now in mind, do you think the actions or inaction connected to stereotyping and discrimination have an effect on the lives of others you are directly connected to? Why or why not?

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Stereotyping and the discriminatory practices that are often connected with it have negative effects on the entire society, including people with whom an individual is in direct contact and those they may never meet. When people apply stereotypes, they are making evaluations and judgments that are based not in knowledge but in concepts that are widely promoted by people and institutions that have a stake in perpetuating inequality. In a society where stereotyping is common, it will be applied indiscriminately to everyone in the society, even when its members are not aware of such behavior.

Gender stereotypes are extremely common and are damaging to people of all genders and those who identify as agender. Gender stereotypes limit not only the opportunities of females and LGBTQ people, against whom they are widely applied, but also those of CIS/straight males. Persistent anti-LGBTQ discrimination often discourages people, especially adolescents, from publicly acknowledging their gender and sexuality, which may lead to depression and even suicide. Stereotypes about sexuality are especially harmful to children. In a highly publicized incident involving a young boy with a prominent role in public life, a media critic ridiculed his parents for enrolling him in ballet class. While such negative stereotypes may be applied every day, in this case it garnered publicity because the mockery was applied to Prince George, the future King of England.

For ordinary people, negative consequences occur because discriminatory behavior by individuals generally correlates with policies and practices by public and private institutions and the state. Supposedly positive stereotypes, not just negative ones, are frequently used to discriminate against individuals. The idea that Asian people are “naturally” good at math, for example, is used to justify requiring higher performance standards for Asian American students in college applications, which in turn may compel the children to try to excel in math classes because they are likely to be evaluated in comparison to their supposed peers.

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