Political correctness aside, there are many colorful (no pun intended) assumptions about people in relation to their racial backgrounds. Stereotypes can be found for every race and ethnicity. In fact, quite aside from any racist or prejudicial purposes (for which they are often associated with); stereotypes commonly are simple truths usually relating to a few folks that are generalized and applied (often incorrectly) to a whole category of people. While racial stereotyping has at times proved to be hurtful and oppressive, taken in a lighter vein, they have also proved to be the source for a good deal of parody and humor (think about such movie classics as Airplane and Blazing Saddle). With this in mind, let’s take a look at the 10 most interesting racial stereotypes.
10. White People Don’t Have Rhythm
This is probably one of the most enduring stereotypes in western society and the fodder for innumerable jokes. While the haltingly jerky motions of many Caucasians would seem to be indicative of a lack of rhythmic abilities, this affliction could be more the result of listening to bad music than the absence of physical capabilities. In fact, I’ve seen Dirty Dancing! Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey managed to do their thing (I’m talking about the dancing) with style and grace (which is to say plenty of rhythm). Realistically, white folks from the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly to Madonna tend to put this particular stereotype in its proper perspective. Still, watching one’s uncle trying to two-step at a wedding probably does more to continue to fuel this stereotype than anything else.
9. African Americans Are Good At Basketball
Ok, it IS true that the largest percentage of professional basketball players currently in the NBA is African-American (well over 80%). And it is also true that the majority of the top college basketball programs also feature a healthy percentage of African Americans. However, this does not mean that every man (or woman) of color happens to be able to dribble and shoot a basketball better than their contemporaries of other races. For every Michael Jordan, there are 25 black guys who couldn’t hit the side of a very large barn with a basketball. Playing basketball is a skill and not a racially imparted genetic marker. There are plenty of good basketball players of other races – both professionally and on collegiate level. Nevertheless, this particular stereotype is a good means of getting selected for a pick-up game at the local b-ball court if most of the available players aren’t black!
8. All Asians Are Geniuses
There is a distinct impression that every Asian kid in the US school system is a scientific mastermind. And to be truthful, Asian kids – percentage wise – tend to do exceedingly well in academics when compared to white and black kids. However, Asians also represent a smaller percentage of the population and of classrooms, so those numbers can be misleading. Interestingly, there was a recent discussion in the media about this particular stereotype and one of the Asian participants put forth a very persuasive argument that Asians are just as uninformed as anyone else. One would suppose even positive stereotypes generate reasons to refute them. Well one thing is for certain – the Asian guys and gals are always the doctors and scientists in the movies, so that has to mean something!
7. Hispanics Don’t Speak English Very Well or Not at All
This may be true if you are in Mexico or in parts of Central America (and some parts of America). But the same thing could be said of someone from Germany as well (not speaking English). Yes, many Hispanic immigrants that come to America may not speak English very well or at all. However, the vast majority of these individuals pick up the language very quickly. In comparison, how many native born, non-Hispanic Americans are bilingual? Not many. The root of this stereotype seems to be grounded in the fact that many Hispanic folks continue to converse in Spanish; perhaps giving English speakers the impression that this is the only language they speak. This is usually not the case. But for anyone that has been on the receiving end of a very angry Latina, you will realize that Hispanics know the English language very, very well indeed.
6. Native Americans Love to Gamble
This is a fairly recent stereotype that has manifested as a result of the high percentage of casinos that can be found on Native American reservations around the country. The assumption is that because there are an increasingly large number of these houses of gaming on reservations, Native Americans love to gamble. Actually, the truth of the matter is that Native Americans love to make money (which is a truth that tends to cross all racial barriers). The casinos in question are usually owned by the tribe(s) of the reservation in which the establishment is located. Because of the various unique laws that work in favor of reservations, Native Americans have found the gaming industry to be very lucrative. The majority of the visitors to these reservation casinos are distinctly non-Native American; though the money that flows into the tribe’s coffers is definitely green.
5. All Asians Know Kung Fu
Everyone loves Bruce Lee and who hasn’t seen the multitude of vintage Kung Fu movies. Those movies, probably more than anything else, have given rise to the false impression that all Asians know martial arts. While it’s not unheard of for Asians to be trained in the martial arts, it is also true that this is no more of an occurrence than with any other race. Confronted with this stereotype, many Asians are dumbfounded to the absurdity of the idea that supposedly has them spending a lifetime in martial arts training. Actually, Asian kids spend a good deal of their time playing X-Box and Play Station like everyone else. Really, Asians are more likely to fall into the “genius” stereotype than this one. For certain, all those folks in the Godzilla movies didn’t break out into kung fu mania – and we all know the realism and social message that those flicks represented.
4. African American Men Are Well Endowed
Well…One would suppose this could be true or not, depending on the individual. It is probably safe to say that those individuals who find this stereotype lacking would certainly wish otherwise. Black guys have definitely used this particular stereotype to their advantage. There have actually been a few studies on this particular issue, with the results being inclusive. Apparently there doesn’t seem to be a very big (again, no pun intended) rush for guys to measure themselves for scientific purposes. This stereotype is therefore still somewhat of a mystery in terms of veracity. Nevertheless, this particular stereotype is persistent and many have fallen victim to unrealistic expectations from their lady friends. While porno stars continue to give life to the myth, the average Joe probably has to be satisfied with something a little less.
3. Middle Easterners Hate America
Media hype has done more to perpetuate this stereotype than anything else. This is especially true with the current heightened sensitivity to terrorism. Conversely, this stereotype is shown to be a fallacy by the sheer number of people of Middle Eastern descent that either reside in the United States or want to. Everything from superb higher educational opportunities to gainful employment continues to attract individuals from the Middle East (and elsewhere) to the US. Suffice to say, there is more love for America among Middle Easterners than not. One can even see evidence of this in Middle Eastern countries itself – there are McDonald’s in the desert! There is nothing that says “I Love America” more than a local McDonald’s. So the next time you hear someone shouting “death to America,” you can probably consider him the local social pariah in need of a cup of coffee from the nearest Starbucks.
2. White People Are All Racist
Some say that the sins of the past will haunt the present, and this is certainly true with this stereotype. There is definitive truth in the fact that many groups of people have suffered as a result of harsh treatment at the hands of white folks. However, not all white people, for example, were slave owners or even believed in the institution of slavery. True, there are white people who are racist, but not everyone (or even a majority of everyone) holds to those beliefs. White people are no more racist than anyone else. In fact, being cognizant of this particular stereotype, many folks are particularly attentive to being politically correct.
1. Hispanics Are All Illegal Aliens
If one listens to some of the more conservative talk shows, one would come to the false conclusion that the majority (if not all) of the Hispanic people in America are illegal immigrants. Certainly, there is an illegal immigration problem. But this is not indicative of the status of the vast majority of Hispanics that reside in the US. Many Hispanics are seasonal immigrant workers who have work visas. They come to the US to work and then return home. Others proceed through the proper channels in order to live and work in US permanently. Then of course, there are Hispanics who are naturally born American citizens. The problem, as usual, is that little attention is given to those who go about doing something right, while all eyes are on those who abuse the system. The dramatic rise in the Latino population doesn’t indicate a mass exodus past the border patrol. It’s a whole lot easier to be a Hispanic immigrant to the US than it is being a Haitian or German – there’s a lot more water to cross for those folks. Photo: knowledge.allianz.com.