A Look at Stereotyping from Within
July 03, 2012
Dr. Fathiah Inserto
A Look at Stereotyping from Within
Planet earth has approximately six billion people living on it and each individual is uniquely different. The differences can range from body shape, skin tone, religious preference, mental capacity, to how each individual processes life’s events. When people display their unique traits and characteristics it is a reminder that even though they may be grouped, each person is different and those differences often show in our social behavior. People are often confronted with the reality that there are some notable differences between and themselves and ...view middle of the document...
These judgments whether they are overt or automatic are more prevalent than most people would admit to. Far too many of us speak of equality and hope, yet secretly rationalize hate, based on little more than stereotypes and stories of atrocities that happened generations ago (Hickman, 2007). Hidden stereotypes and prejudices may appear controllable at times, but given the correct opportunity they will find a way to rear their ugly head.
I recently decided to expand my cultural awareness in the area of dining and in doing so; I would be confronted with the reality of my own bias and stereotyping of others. Raised mainly on foods connected to my cultural upbringing, there was very little exposure to culturally diverse eating menus or venues. The menus I remember consisted of fried chicken, mustard, collard or turnip greens with salt pork, yams, black eyed peas, and the like. Surveying the room of those eating, it was apparent that everyone was of the same race and very comfortable partaking of the same cultural festivities.
Culturally diversifying my eating menu would be challenged at a local establishment called The Taco Hut Mexican Restaurant. This is a quaint little restaurant nestled in a strip mall in the city of Rancho Cucamonga. There were no preconceived notions of what to expect other than a good dining experience with my wife, at least that is what I told myself before we were seated, but that would change. Upon entering the establishment it was painfully obvious that we were outsiders looking to fit into their world. This was overtly communicated to us non-verbally by the patrons and perhaps a little less blatant by the staff members. The sneers and jeers from the regulars cut deep as we passed them by to be seated. Their negative body language was a sign to us that our dining attire, skin color, and heavy English accent said that we did not belong. Nevertheless, we decided that we would dine there anyway, partially because we were in the mood for Mexican food and partially because we are both stubborn and would not be easily shunned.
Feeling mocked and scorned I immediately began to think about all of the negative stereotypes that I once heard about the Hispanic culture. How they were racist, rude, non-cordial, and unfriendly people. More than anything this was probably a defense mechanism to avoid the internal pain of just been pigeonholed. We ordered our food, and to our surprise we were served by the nicest Hispanic waitress one could hope for. I noticed that every time she checked on our table, tension seemed to evaporate. After about an hour or so it was clear to everyone around that we were in it for the long haul. The sneers and jeers seemed to vanish slowly and were subsequently replaced by smiles and slight head nods of approval. The shift in the atmosphere completely put us at ease. Before that I had visions of heated exchanges between me, and one of the regulars or even a physical altercation. I had prepared myself...