A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. These beliefs are assumptions based on images, or simply names. Stereotypes can be found everywhere, and high school is no exception.
From a young age, American children are told that the “All-American girl” is comparable to Barbie, or Marilyn Monroe. That Africa looks like it does in The Lion King and on commercials illustrated by starving children.
Movies tell us that people with glasses are smart, blondes are dumb, and teens with piercings are rebels. Movies embrace many stereotypes, which is fine, but the problem begins when the generalizations leave the theater.
“All people see when they think of Africa is starving children, because that is what all those commercials show… but there is so much more to Kenya than what the TV shows,” said senior Tim Nakhisa.
Curious to see if this was true, a random survey was conducted on fifty Heritage seniors. After questioning the students about how they imagined Africa, a whopping thirty-eight said that when they envision Africa they think of “starving children.”
Clearly there are starving adults in Africa, but everyone only mentioned the children. A few even admitted to picturing Africa exactly like it was in The Lion King. Clearly Heritage is not immune to assumptions.
Many people have begun to use stereotypes as a reason to ignore or even bully others. When one looks at another through these unoriginal molds, they feel as if they already know who that person is. Sixty-four percent of the interviewed seniors felt as though they had been unfairly stereotyped.
One student wrote, “I like to wear black, and people often ask me if I’m depressed. No one wants to hang out with a girl who is sad… even though I’m not.”
Is this okay? Is it alright for us to alienate each other due to an assumption?
One way we can fight stereotypes is by allowing ourselves to be open-minded and get to know someone before jumping to conclusions. One of the best ways to do this is by communicating with different social groups, and getting to know them personally, rather than judging them from the outside.
The survey was only conducted on a small percent of the school, and over half of them had experienced being categorized. Many said they knew that some stereotypes are meant as jokes, but they still hurt.
It isn’t fair to let these fixed views from meeting new people, nor to deny a person the chance to be independent of the conventional classification placed upon them. Forty-eight of the seniors said the reason bullying fueled by stereotypes continues is due to fear.
“Fear of standing out, fear of them saying ‘I can’t believe you took that seriously’. Or fear of them turning on them,” said one senior.
Imagine a Heritage in which we didn’t assume that someone was smart based on their race, or dumb based on their hair color. Now is the time we stop being afraid. Now the time is for students to be part of the solution and stop stereotyping.
-Written by Cheyenne Sutcliffe & Ashley Davis