Do You Typecast?

stereotypesIs there such as thing as a harmless stereotype?

Do you typecast? Match the word on the left to the word/phrase often associated with it on the right.

Homosexual Good at sports, dancing
Middle aged woman Doughnut shop
African-American Fashion and design conscious
Baby boy Daring and nurturing
Asian Gang member
Policeman Dumb
Fat person Dressed in blue
Man with tattoos Lazy, undisciplined
Blonde hair Good at math

 

Even if you may not believe these to be true, so many people in the US are easily able to make these connections. In a line-up of crime suspects, who do you think is targeted more often, the well dressed, clean shaven man, or a sloppily dressed, dirty, darker skinned, and disheveled man wearing a cap? If you are walking alone down a dark street at night and a gang of teenagers, sporting tattoos walks towards you, do you cross the street?

Subtle typecasting and assumptions can be just as damaging as more outright stereotyping. We often don’t consider ourselves to be racist or judgmental. We might have friends or colleagues of all races and sexual preferences and be comfortable with these relationships. But we may possess associations that seem harmless, or even true. Even these small biases can be damaging. It changes our perspective and sometimes our expectations. Have you ever seen a baby dressed in light blue and assumed the child was a boy?  Then to your embarrassment, you find out from the caregiver that the child is a baby girl. Even if we keep these thoughts private, our actions can send a different message.

The “harmless” expectations felt by members of these groups can be frustrating or even damaging. People can feel negatively about themselves in relation to these common perceptions. How might an Asian child feel if she/he is not good at math? Or the tall, African-American female who is not good at basketball?   Either might feel that they are a failure. Yet, a 5’ 2” Caucasian woman may not possess these skills and have no self-esteem whatsoever.

For more on this topic, check out: It’s Pronounced Metrosexual or Stereotype