Stereotypes

Divya Jalan (Canada, AC 10′-12′)

Stereotyping is an infection, an inflammation, an itch that you don’t really think about, but one that is irritating at inconvenient times and just won’t go away. A disease that decreases potential and performance as Emily Chan (former AC student) said in her workshop during the Peace & Conflict Conference. Her workshop was about stereotypes and how to deal with their negative implications.

Not all stereotypes seem bad, in fact, a lot of the time people use them as a boundary that enables them to know what to expect in the most extreme version of a scenario. Stereotypes are like caricatures, they are exaggerated likenesses that stem from a few truthful, ‘original’ features. For example, ‘all Asians are good at math,’ it may seem like a lot of Asians are good at math, however it may just be that it’s just the ones you have met. Emily Chan talked about the pressure such a stereotype puts on an Asian student who is good at math and one who isn’t. The one who was good at math would always be under stress to achieve the best grades and this would result in a slight decrease in performance as the stress generated from stereotypes causes the slightest decrease in ability to retain knowledge and focus. For example, instead of getting 98% the student might just get 93%, yet as time goes on, the accumulation of these slight decreases in performance might just prevent you from getting into the university you wanted, or getting the job or promotion you were hoping for. For an Asian student who wasn’t fond of math, they would be under stress to continue trying to achieve the status of being the ‘best’ in math, preventing them from spending time on things they enjoy more, minimizing their potential for success. This student may also do worse at math as they may be afraid of asking questions in class and clarifying concepts they are unsure of at the risk of appearing ‘stupid.’

Emily Chan explained the concepts of stereotypes affecting everyone, not only do we ‘give’ stereotypes, we are also all ‘takers’ of stereotypes…no one escapes this disease of preconceptions.

Despite all of this, we can’t stop stereotypes, or prevent them forming, they can only be broken when we see for ourselves how untrue they are. For example, when we get to know a person or people belonging to what we bracket as a stereotype better. However, we can stop the impact of them on us being quite so negative; some ideas we came up with to counter the effects of stereotypes are:

1) Taking slow deep breaths or listening to relaxing music at the point where we feel most stressed out by the stereotype.

2) Having role models or people who encourage us to do what feels the most natural for us despite the stereotype.

3) In the future, encouraging others to do their best and break out of a stereotype, allowing them to know you appreciate their efforts. Placing emphasis in the positive rather than the negative.

-United Words College Student Magazine-

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