We and many many others…but within the time span

We have the power of change. “We all use stereotypes, all the time, without knowing it. We have met the enemy of equality, and the enemy is us.”, a quote from Annie Murphy Paul, one of America’s first psychological journals founded in 1967, making psychology literature more accessible. Her words timelessly ring true to a society where stereotypes, whether consciously or subconsciously, rule our minds. It is now the 21st century and despite all our efforts, stereotypes still exist.Raise your hands if you’ve ever felt like you’ve been judged by someone, whether it was because of your race, your gender, your appearance, or even the way you walked or talked. How many of you have felt like friends, relatives, or even strangers took one look at you and categorized you — put you in a box. There are a multitude of different stereotypes ranging from racial remarks, sexist remarks, or even stereotypes about how people with tattoos and piercings are shady, and many many others…but within the time span we have, I can’t possibly cover them all, so I’ll address the ones I’m most accustomed to experiencing as an Asian – American women: race and gender. In racial stereotypes, we hear ‘all Asians are good at maths’ or ‘all Arabs are angry people that like to blow stuff up’. Stereotypes can sometimes be good and helpful. However there are other examples where discrimination on the basis of stereotypes, often has negative effects. These examples show the prejudice that some of us may have, and there are consequences to this type of language. Racial remarks tend to identify people by their skin color, and people should not be generalized by race or ethnicity. Racial slurs used in our            language can make young kids hearing it feel confused, and make them question themselves. Such language hurts a child’s prospect in growing up without preconceived notions.Not many conform to these stereotypes, and the belief in such remarks suggests that we are a society that likes to discriminate and categorize. This needs to change. In the linguistic studies of the American Philosopher Hilary Whitehall, Putnam suggests that the definition of stereotype is a conventional idea of what X looks like, acts like, or is’. There are two points to his theory: linguistic obligation and division of linguistic labour. Linguistic obligation means that the stereotypical component should be known to all language users (yellow for lemon), whereas division of linguistic labour suggests that some members of the linguistic community are more competent than others in distinguishing the characteristics the object. From this theory we understand that people use both linguistic obligation and division of linguistic labour to understand the conventional ideas of what x looks like, and then to distinguish the characteristics. This theory applies to objects, however we’ve veered towards doing this to humans. Putnam’s theory focused on semantics, not formal stereotypes….Although it’s okay to distinguish the characteristics of an object, it is not okay to this to humans. Stereotypes are an oversimplification, and generalization of whole groups. Unlike a lemon’s skin being yellow, we can’t distinguish a person characteristic based on their skin tone. Then there are the other derogatory phrases stemming from gender stereotypes such as, “Guys don’t cry” or have you heard of the phrase “You run like a girl”? I was 11 when I first overheard my grandfather telling my younger brother, whom was only six at the time, that if he wanted to win, he had to “????????” loosely translating to “stop running like a girl”? What do we mean when we say “like a girl”? It’s just a phrase right? A stereotype used worldwide to tease young boys; a means to disregard an upset young women: “Don’t cry like a girl!” they said. It was a way to insult someone without telling them not to do something. What is the message our children take from this when they hear such phrases?….That being compared to a girl is the worst thing that could happen.So what does that teach them about girls? It builds into the profile of girls being seen as weak, incapable, or even laughable. We’re accustomed to connoting this sort of phrase with undesirable behavior. The fact that this was said at a young age to my brother, suggests stereotypes begin to impact kids very early on, breeding toxic masculinity — taking with them an internalized misogyny…sometimes even into adulthood. The danger in stereotypes is that it doesn’t offer up the whole truth, the American writer Walter Lippmann in his book “Public Opinion” and psychological studies saw stereotypes to not “be a complete picture of the world, but they are a picture of a possible world to which we are adapted”. Don’t get me wrong, times have definitely changed since I was growing up. However, I can confidently say the truth is many of us still believe in these things. We can see it in our movie industry; the Asian kid is extremely smart or is a tech geek, the Hispanic person is a drug addict, and the African American boy lives in a bad neighborhood.We categorized people into what we know based off of our own identity. This affects our outlook and ultimately our speech. Prejudice is natural and not inherently evil. The importance is actually to understand why we depend on it, and to recognize when our words leads us astray, and how we might be imposing this onto our children. This single testament against years of stereotypes won’t change the world. It’s not the whole world we can change, but the only world we can change is ours. We can change our life, our ways, and our words; a world where we are more conscious of our words and of our actions because children…they learn very quickly, and they learn from us. As Mahatma Ghandi once said “Be the change you want to see in the world”, and that’s where we should all start.