Stereotyping in America:
Stereotyping exists in several forms but it is principally related to racial and gender issues, at least in the United States. There have been several forms of racial stereotyping in the past particularly against black Americans who have been derided in all sorts of manners from their sexual prowess to the colour of their skin. The same goes for gender stereotyping where women have often been discriminated against men particularly on their place of work and in particular professions. This paper attempts to examine various racial forms of stereotyping that were prevalent in American society and which are still unfortunately common today. It will also examine gender stereotyping against women especially on the job and in work experiences.
Since time immemorial, Americans have denigrated blacks and other races within their society with racial stereotypes. The typical black male as depicted in the film, ‘Birth of a Nation’ by DW Griffith is a burly, rapacious brute only interested in lust and deflowering white women. Such stereotyping was extremely common in the Southern states and can be extremely dangerous, in fact the film was credited with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920’s especially in states like Georgia and Tennessee. The black “sammbo’ is only interested in raping and propagating his bloodlust according to the film and this undoubtedly led to random and wanton violence against able bodied black men. This culminated in the horrific lynching of Claude Neal in Florida in 1935 where stereotyping was undoubtedly responsible for the barbaric acts committed against Neal which were hardly human.
Women are often discriminated against at their place of work due to the fact that they are consistently stereotyped. According to typical opinion, a woman’s place is in the home to look after the house, cook her husband meals and take care of the children. This obviously creates a situation here those women who decide to go out and work are looed at with a certain amount of disdain and will be discriminated against. This happened in factories in the second World War where the woman stereotype of home clashed with that where women were on the job of production for the country. The same thing continues to happen today as women who have infiltrated the professions such as law and medicine find themselves discriminated against due to stereotypes. And if these women are from different races, then their discrimination will be worse as they suffer it double, both racially and gender wise.
Conclusion: stereotypes as a harm to the nation’s society
Stereotypes are intrinsically wrong as they create an image of a person which apart from being incorrect, may incite others to violence. Racial stereotypes remain the most harmful of all as can be seen in the case of the Jew Leo Frank who was lynched by a mob of men in Marietta, Georgia in 1916 due to the fact that it was assumed that he was guilty of the murder of the child Mary Phagan due to the stereotype inflicted on Jews, that of lustful, money minded, brutal rapists. Unfortunately America still has some stereotypes ingrained in its society and these will not go away easily as past history has taught us on a regular level.
Oney S (2004); And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank; Vintage
McGovern J (1992); Anatomy of a Lynching: The Killing of Claude Neal; Louisiana State University Press
Basow S (1986); Gender Stereotypes: Traditions and Alternatives; Brooks/Cole