From a young age, stereotypes are ingrained in our minds through TV shows and movies we watch. From the typical "jock bully" to the stereotypical "hero" trope, it is easy to see a stark difference in how these characters are perceived. These stereotypes are ingrained in our brains and have become so normalized to us as a society, we may not even realize that we are doing it in our own personal lives.
Stereotypes can range from harmless to harmful in a variety of ways, but they should never be used as a way to classify someone that you haven’t fully gotten to know yet. Stereotyping becomes such a second nature to us that it influences us in everyday decisions, from who to sit by in class and who to ask for directions or advice.
In college, stereotypes can be more prevalent with the many organizations and clubs that students on campus can choose from. With so many clubs to choose from, different assumptions can be made—as if being a member of a certain club is someone’s only identity.
Students are judged at face value in many of these clubs, as a member and as an outsider. This is normal and is honestly something that everyone does; however, this excuse doesn’t make the action okay.
Assumptions can come from joining Greek life and can even be pulled from the major students are in. For an example, some people wrongly assume that all sorority girls are vapid and all business majors are snakes, but it is important to look past those false perceptions. Even as a mass communication major, many journalists are assumed to be liars and that we are all trying to spread “fake news,” which is typically not the intent.
Stereotyping can also be a painful reminder of how society views certain groups of people. Homophobia and racism are quickly dismissed when you put them under the guise of a stereotype of a person. Seeing people in this negative light can be harmful to them and to people around you who may overhear.
If you talk with your friends and make a vague assumption about who they are, based on a surface level classification, someone with that actual classification may overhear. You may think that making a stereotypical “gay joke” is just funny, but what you may not realize is that there could be someone in the LGBTQ+ community around you, and they probably have to deal with that stereotype constantly.
Small jokes and comments centered around stereotypes can seem unimportant, but the effects they have can really hurt people, mentally and physically.
People of color face stereotypical racism all the time, from jokes about "going back to where they came from," to being asked if they have "picked cotton before," which has happened to one of our staff member before while in Nacogdoches. These jokes are harmful and inappropriate to be said in any situation, and the type of thinking that causes them needs to be addressed. Truly, they aren’t even jokes.
The jokes are never just jokes, but are rather a reflection of how you perceive that person as a whole, or at least how society has conditioned you to perceive them. A Tumblr post brought up the idea that “the first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think. What you think next defines who you are.” This brings up the fact that you need to decide to try and quit stereotyping, even if it just happens in your mind.
If you take the initiative in your mind to change how you view people you don’t know, you will be able to see the world in a better light and make connections with people who you may have never gotten to meet before.