An ethnic stereotype is a system of beliefs about typical characteristics, status and norms of members of a certain ethnic group. In America, there are a lot of stereotypes about certain ethnic groups always expressed in repugnant ethnic jokes, with the concomitant prejudices and phobias. This is because most groups stereotype themselves positively while stereotyping others negatively leading to conflict. Often, most of these stereotypes are flights of fancy with hardly a grain of truth in them.
Stereotypes are often self-perpetuating. If a group is perceived as aggressive and impatient, other people dealing with members of that group are bound to be aggressive and impatient, making the person they are dealing with to also become aggressive and impatient (Rose, 2015). Hence, it becomes quite difficult to get rid of stereotyping. Stereotyping is not always bad because accurate generalizations of a group give us an idea of how a person we will interact with is likely to be, leading to effective communication and behavior. However inaccurate and negative stereotyping is undesirable and this can be got rid of in American society.
Ways to do this include personal interactions between people of different ethnicities since people are generally more reasonable than their stereotypes and also have more in common than differences (Rose, 2015). By identifying and understanding commonalities and differences through interaction with people from different ethnicities, a person or group of people can extrapolate this experiences to the rest of the ‘other’ group leading to banishing of stereotypes.
The media can also help banish stereotypes by accurate and positive portrayal of the various ethnic groups. Hollywood for example has been accused of perpetuating stereotypes of blacks through storylines and awards (Rose, 2015). These may lead to a stereotype that black people are untalented savages. But if the media humanizes all ethnicities, there will be less conflict and stereotyping. The education system is also crucial in negating stereotypes. Curriculum and teaching materials should aim at effectively and empathetically portraying the different ethnic groups. While history cannot be wished away, such events as slavery and holocaust should be acknowledged as the mistakes they were rather than ‘typical’ events. In so doing, inter-ethnic understanding is enhanced.
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