Consequences Of Stereotyping In A Crazy World

November 30th, 2011 | Categories: Stereotypes in General

It is not often I write about the consequences of stereotyping. This is partly because they are obvious and so there is little need to belabor the point. This is also partly because becoming too focused on the consequences of stereotyping can blind you from being able to understand how stereotypes work, which ultimately is the only way to change how they are used.

Nonetheless, sometimes consequences warrant attention because they demonstrate how crazy the world can be. Such is the case with the recent announcement that a Kentucky church intends to ban interracial couples from becoming members.

Although you might not think stereotyping is relevant here, it is because stereotypes promote the view that race exists, one premise of this ban. When we communicate stereotypes about race, we participate in constructing stereotypes as real, but also race itself as real. To say a racial group has certain stereotypical characteristics presumes that racial groups exist. However, race is now commonly viewed by scholars as a social construction not based in science or fact.

Despite the (depressing) stance the church has taken with their majority vote, the comments on the brief article provide some evidence that the world has not gone crazy.

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  1. DL
    December 20th, 2011 at 15:59

    One of the reasons stereotypes about race persist is because many scholars take an academic view and an intellectual view of race as a “social construction,” but they do not take a practical view of race as a “social construction.” In other words, it’s considered progressive and enlightened to say race is a social construction even though many scholars may live their lives firmly entrenched in certain beliefs about race and racial groups. For example, a White-identified female colleague who works in the area of gender communication and abuse actually said to me, “You’re the typical Black woman.” Yes, she said this to my face. She said this in public. She said this in front of other people in our department. She said this as though she were saying, “you’re wearing a black suit today.” I’ve heard this woman in meetings talk the language of radical social deconstruction, referring to “patriarchal” this and “patriarchal” that. However, to her, I am a constellation of base sterotypes because, as she said to reinforce and justify her racial privilege, I AM “talkative, oppositional, and angry.” Of course, she thinks I talk too much–Black-identified women aren’t supposed to speak. Of course she thinks I’m oppositional because, let’s be real, no one is supposed to disagree and especially a minority descended from Africa who shouldn’t even be in academia in the first place. And, well, of course I’m angry because she insulted me and I let her know that. And, obviously, she firmly believes the media sterotypes of just about all Black-identified women as loud, obnoxious, ill-mannered, uneducated, pathological, harridans with murder in their hearts and knives in their bosom. She made a point of telling me how “scary” I was when I stopped smiling, looked her straight in the eye, and questioned her directly about her statement. The social rules of the game in polite society are used to maintain the social order. Becoming serious, angry, and direct were just further evidence to her that she was absolutely correct in her assesment of my sub-human status. It was then that I smiled, sat back, and said, “I can’t win this.” It is the carefully constructed binary of racial superiority and inferiority that helps make sterotypes so ubquitous,even among those who profess to be above all that. Race may not be real, but for many–regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum–stereotypes certainly are.

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