The Effects of Stereotyping
Stereotyping is a major problem in today’s society and is present in most places, if not everywhere, in the world. To stereotype someone means to put an oversimplified image on a person, typically pertaining to race, gender, and culture. These types of insults commonly have a lasting, negative impact on the victim and can result with a difficulty of coping.
Although people will try to terminate the usage of stereotypes, it is mostly unavoidable and has a continuing presence in the world. In the novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” written by Sherman Alexie and modern sources, the authors explore how stereotypes negatively impact the victim. First off, at schools and universities, Native Americans are normally stereotyped negatively. In the novel, Junior, the main character, is constantly stereotyped at a white school for being an Indian living on a reservation. He had to cope with many stereotypical insults that had a lasting effect on him as a person, “I was a reservation Indian, and no matter how geeky and weak I appeared to be, I was still a potential killer.
So mostly they called me names. . . I’d always be known as ‘Chief’ or ‘Tonto’ or ‘Squaw Boy'” (Alexie 63-64). This shows how people only saw him for his skin color and race.
They never knew his traits or personality, but took into account of where he came from. They called him names based off of cliche Indian images and made the assumption that the two were connected. This explains how stereotypes can deny one the right of his/her individuality, and is an example of an oversimplified idea. This relates to the modern source, “Portrait in Alienation: Native American Students on a Predominantly White Campus,” written by Janis Swenson Taylor, where the author conducted a survey of Indians living on a white campus and their experiences. This source incorporates the Native Indians feelings of isolation and exclusion among their peers.
Some felt like they did not belong because of the difference in skin color and that they weren’t accepted by others, “You see this guy walking to class with long hair and dark skin. You think he’s not the same as everyone else. . . like what is he doing here? This is not the place for him.
Those kind of eyes were on me; they just thought different of me. They weren’t accepting,” (Taylor 8). This shows how these Native Americans felt that others were stereotyping them for their race and that made them feel alone and self-conscience. This connects with the novel because in both situations, Native Indians are stereotyped by white peers. Therefore, both the novel and source prove how Native Americans are stereotyped in dominantly white schooling systems, making them feel isolated and view themselves as unwelcomed. Next, the term “acting white,” is now used as a hurtful insult that makes a person question his/her identity.
The belief accuses one of betraying his/her culture and is used to harm and exclude the victim. In the novel, this form of abusive language was used toward Junior because of the reservation’s belief that he was conforming to white culture and standards. Because Junior transferred to a white schooling system, the Indians on the reservation viewed that as betrayal, and began hurling insults at him and excluding him for the sole belief that he was acting white, “‘Ar-nold sucks! Ar-nold sucks!’. . .
And then as one, they all turned their backs on me,” (Alexie 53). The reservation’s response to Junior’s departure was to isolate him for losing his Indian culture. Even his best friend, Rowdy, began to bully him, “You white lover,” (Alexie 53). This all shows how Junior is being stereotyped on his reservation, which is also his home, for acting white and betraying them. This resulted in Junior beginning to question his identity.
This is a form of stereotyping because the reservation made the harsh assumption that he was acting white and conforming to white culture because he was joining a white school and made white friends. This connects to the modern source, “Assessing the Effects of Experiencing the Acting White Accusation,” by Angela Neal-Barnett. In this article, the author explores how the term, “acting white,” means to lose one’s culture and is used as an abusive remark, “Acting white is one of the most negative accusations one African American adolescent can hurl at another” (Neal-Barnett 103). This shows how it is used as a stereotypical comment and used to exclude the victim. In modern times, these harmful comments are typically voiced by the same race as the victim and shows how often one can turn his/her back on another to be mean and treat the victim as an inferior. In both the novel and modern source, the stereotypical term is used to degrade and insult the victim, resulting the sufferer in having a lasting, negative impact.
Furthermore, when one is threatened with the use of a stereotype, one mechanism that may take place is the victim beginning to stereotype others, therefore enhancing their own image. In the novel, Junior has the trait of constantly stereotyping others around him. This may be because others are stereotyping him and he wants to create a positive self-image for himself, “Reardan is the rich, white farm that sits in the wheat field exactly twenty-two miles away from the rez. And it’s a hick town, I suppose, filled with farmers and rednecks and racist cops who stop every Indian that drives through” (Alexie 46). This shows how Junior is expressing negative stereotypes toward Reardan to make the reservation sound better. Before he went to the schooling system there, he never fully understood the town, yet made the assumption that because they lived in a wheat field that they were all farmers and rednecks.
He also made the conclusion that every cop was racist after his father was pulled over by a police man in that town. This demonstrates how these few experiences created a negative impression for the whole town, which is what stereotyping is. He knew that Indians were critically judged in white areas for acting like a cliche Indian, so he put negative stereotypes on the white areas to create a favorable image of himself. This pertains to Steven J. Spencer’s article, “Automatic Activation of Stereotypes: The Role of Self-Image Threat.” This source explores the idea that people frequently activate stereotypes as a mechanism against image threats, “When people experience self-image threat, they may often stereotype others to restore their own threatened self-image.
. . Stereotyping others may be a common way for people to seek to maintain a positive self-image” (Spencer 1140). This explains how when one feels that their identity is being negatively impacted, they will initiate stereotypes on others to protect their image. This relates to the novel because Junior stereotypes others because he feels his self-image is being threatened and uses this form of stereotyping as a mechanism.
Therefore, stereotypes can damage the victim negatively, possibly causing them to stereotype others out of fear of being degraded and being treated as inferior. In Sherman Alexie’s novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and modern sources, the authors investigate stereotypes and how they impact the victim negatively. Throughout all races, genders, and cultures, there are stereotypes. Although some are more privileged than others, all go through judgment and criticism. Stereotypes are present almost everywhere, if not everywhere, and deny the victim of their individuality, concluding something based on appearance and a special categorized group they belong to. This can create a negative experience and may possibly promote the victim to question his/her identity.