What is a stereotype? A stereotype is a simplified image of a person, group, etc. Does stereotyping save us the trouble of finding out what the world is like? Are stereotypes damaging? Is there anything positive or helpful about stereotyping? Robert L. Heilbroner in, “Don’t Let Stereotypes Warp Your Judgments” and Brent Staples in, “Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders his Power to Alter Public Space”, make it clear on why people stereotype and the effect it has on others.
Judging others before you get to know them is very unfair and unkind. Especially judging them based on other people’s opinions or just off of rumors. In Heilbroner’s essay he quoted Walter Lippman’s saying, “For the most part we do not first see, and then define; we define first, and then see”. This is very important because it is pointing out a flaw that we as humans have in society. What we don’t do is get to know a person first then make our judgments about them. What we do is look at how their appearance is, what nationality that person is, and listen to the rumors about that person and base our judgments on that.
This is not positive at all because everyone on earth is different and have different tastes, style, interests, etc. So because their style, interest does not match your take on a successful and attractive person, you judge that person negatively. That is a problem in our world today. We judge people in negative ways without getting to know the person first. We put labels on how a certain person must look, act and talk. If a person does not meet up with those labels, the reason that they don’t are blamed on their skin color, ethnicity, background, etc.
Stereotyping can have a great effect on a person’s life. One person can be such a sweet person that would not cause harm to none, but because of the stereotypes of their race and gender, they have to change their activities, the way they look, and ways of life to fit into society. Staples in his essay explained as a black man how he had to alter his ways to make life for him a little easier. “I began to take precautions to make myself less threatening. I move about with care, particularly late in the evening…if I happen to be entering a building behind some people who appear skittish, I may walk by, letting them clear the lobby before I return, so as not to seem to be following them.” Is it fair that those people who fear him can live their life as they please while he has to change his ways and give away his freedom? People tend to feel uncomfortable in their own skin due to stereotypes and also deny who they are and where they came from just to fit in to fight the chance of being judged negatively. People are looked upon in a negative way based on their skin color, race, ethnicity have to make life easier for others by changing who they are and what they do in everyday life.
There are people out there who have automatically looked upon as a sweet, intelligent person due to stereotypes, but in reality are the nastiest people. There are also people who are looked at as rude, violent people but are the nicest people. This brings me to my next point. Why is it that there are still stereotypes if they contradict themselves? According to Heilbroner, “we tend to stereotype because it helps us make sense out of a highly confusing world….thus the trouble is that stereotypes make us mentally lazy.” He is explaining that we stereotype because it is easy and fast. We’re too lazy to actually go up to a person and get to know them so we stereotype. We can’t find out for ourselves how each person is so we listen to the rumors and other judgments about someone. Stereotyping is unfair, unkind and inaccurate.
Stereotyping is not a positive thing that we have in society today, but it’s something that will always stick with us, because of the different type of people we have in the world. There are people who are very judgmental, opinionated, etc. We can’t control the stereotypes, but how we decide to deal with them is what we control.