Racial stereotypes are a damaging and dangerous part of society. By lumping an entire people into false generalizations, categories, and definitions; it demeans their identity and strips away their humanity. Once that happens, it’s all too easy to stop seeing the person for who they really are and only see the stereotype. In many cases, stereotypes aren’t just a matter of happenstance but used as a weapon against a race to reduce their social, political, or cultural standing. In today’s modern culture, some stereotypes have also been thinly veiled, making them difficult to recognize. We all have a responsibility to weed out the destructive stereotypes and celebrate individuality and culture. The first step is to stay well-informed. Here are 25 Shocking Racial Stereotypes Seen In Everyday Life.
Too often popular culture pushes the idea that all Asians are super smart and good at math. This stereotype is commonly found in television and film. It’s also part of a “model minority” stereotype which lumps an entire race under one positive definition. However positive, stereotypes hurt people forcing them to uphold a standard that isn’t fair or true.
The “Angry Latina” stereotype unfairly assumes all latin women are fiery, angry, or overly opinionated.
The “Magical Negro” is a film and television stereotype that refuses to die and more frequently popped up in the 90’s with movies like The Matrix, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Green Mile, and What Dreams May Come. This stereotype always has a saintly African-American character guiding the white hero over his obstacles and to his intended goal.
The “Firewater” myth and stereotype incorrectly states that all Native Americans are genetically prone to alcoholism. However, there is no evidence to back this up. Like most stereotypes, it’s used as a way to victim-blame and push racial inferiority.
Coming originally from the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Tom character portrays black men as faithful, submissive servants who will never rebel and are happy and giddy all the time. This stereotype was especially propagated in early Hollywood films.
For years, film and television have stereotyped and sexualized Arab women as “Belly Dancers,” or essentially just sexual objects surrounding men for their pleasure.
The “Welfare Queen” stereotype started in journalistic communities; a speech by Ronald Reagan fueled the fire and perpetuated this myth about welfare. It’s an especially damaging stereotype that holds that all African-American mothers feed off the welfare system, living comfortable lives.
The “Arab-as-Terrorist” stereotype suggests all Arab people are terrorists. This has especially been propagated by video games, movies, and politics.
One of the most outrageous stereotypes in American culture is “Jim Crow.” Started by Thomas D. Rice at the beginning of the 19th century, he decided to put on “blackface” makeup and sang his adaptations of slave music and called it “The Jim Crow Jump.” Over time, it became a powerful and incredibly damaging stereotype equal to calling all African-Americans inferior and less intellectual.
The Dragon Lady
The Dragon Lady stereotype is most prevalent in film and is one of the earliest portrayals of Asian women. It shows Asian women as deceitful, cunning, and hyper-sexualized.
While Arab women are portrayed as sexualized belly dancers in movies, Arab men are stereotyped as villainous, barbaric, and always riding camels.
The Jezebel stereotype propagates the idea that all black women are seductive, alluring, lewd, and even predatory. In contrast, white women were shown as the height of self-respect and dignity. It’s been a stereotype for centuries and is pushed mostly today in modern media.
The “Kung Fu” stereotype states all Asians know and are good at martial arts. This is especially prevalent in cinema and usually involves a white character getting the help of an Asian kung fu master.
The Indian Princess stereotype makes all Native American women adventurous, fierce, demure, maidenly, and deeply committed to a white man. Examples of this can be found in the Disney movies Peter Pan and Pocahontas.
“The Mammy” is a long-enduring stereotype and caricature of African-American women. Resembling “Uncle Tom,” the Mammy served the political, social, and economic interests in southern America by showing African-American women as always smiling, happy, and eager to serve their white masters. The Mammy belongs to the white family and loves them. And unlike the “Jezebel” stereotype, she is completely desexualized. One of the longest lasting and continuing expressions of this is Aunt Jemima.
The stereotype that all Jewish people are rich, wealthy, and good at business has permeated throughout human history. But the truth is Jewish people have existed in all socio-economic levels and have also suffered tremendous persecution and suffering from these false stereotypes. The character Shylock in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is a quintessential example of this racist stereotype.
The “Fried Chicken” stereotype says all African-Americans like to only eat fried chicken. During the horrific era of American slavery, southern slave owners found chicken to be the best way to feed their slaves. However, this stereotype kicked into high gear with the release of Birth of a Nation, a racist film in 1915.
Similar to the fried chicken stereotype, the “Watermelon” stereotype depicts all African-Americans loving and eating watermelon. It can be traced back to when African-Americans won their freedom after the American Civil War. Now free, many would make a living farming, eating, and selling watermelon and even made it a symbol of their freedom. Threatened by this, Southern whites turned it into a negative racial stereotype of African-Americans’ perceived uncleanliness, laziness, and childishness. Above, you can see an example of how this stereotype was used as propaganda.
The “White Trash” stereotype percieves all poor white people, especially those in the American South, as being stupid, simple-minded, and lazy, sitting around watching NASCAR, collecting junker cars, and drinking cheap beer.
The Brute Caricature
“The Brute” caricature perceives all African-American men as animalistic, savage, destructive and criminal. They are depicted as anti-social predators, preying on helpless victims, especially white women. After the American Civil War, many Southern writers perpetuated this myth to try to convince people that slavery helped keep African-American men in line.
The Patriarchal Latino
The “Patriarchal Latino” stereotype depicts all Latino men as being tough, machismo, misogynist, and lacking an education. Occasionally, this stereotype goes further and perceives them as being abusive to their wives, having tattoos, belonging in gangs, or having been in prison.
Angry Black Woman
The “Angry Black Woman” stereotype demeans and negatively criticizes African-American women who stand out, speak up, and try to be the best at what they do by perceiving them as angry and overly-opinionated.
“Redface” is just as offensive as blackface but sadly more commonly ignored. From generic Native American Halloween costumes to NFL sports teams symbols and names, Redface is a stereotype that depicts all Native Americans as culturally the same rather than a diverse group of many nations with individual cultures, languages, traditions, and dress.
Latino Immigrants are Rapists and Murderers
In last year’s US Presidential Election, Donald Trump made a speech depicting Latino immigrants as rapists and murderers. While he certainly didn’t start the stereotype, and we can’t speak to his motives, unfortunately, he helped to legitimize and propagate it on the national stage. This stereotype is demeaning, dangerous, and derives from American xenophobia in an attempt to influence political opinions on immigration policy.
“The Coon” stereotype is quite possibly one of the most insulting, demeaning, and disgusting stereotypes of African-Americans. It describes them as lazy, easily frightened, and inarticulate buffoons. It’s been used to reduce African-Americans to children who weren’t mature enough to have freedom. Unfortunately, its permeated throughout American culture and media and continues to this day in various and veiled forms.
Photo: 25. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 24. Prayitno / Thank you for via flickr. CC BY 2.0, 23. Imdb (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 22. Nik Frey (niksan), Flaming cocktails, CC BY 2.5, 21. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 20. Etan J. Tal, BellyDancerMarrakech, CC BY 3.0, 19. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 18. Peter Hagyo-Kovacs, Arab-Market-2, CC BY-SA 3.0, 17. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 16. LookingInThePopularCultureMirror.Wordpress (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 15. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 14. Ferris.edu (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 13 – 10. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 9. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 8. Wikipedia Commons.com (Public Domain), 7. Joe Sepielli via flickr. CC BY 2.0, 6. Ferris.edu (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 5. Jason Regan, Tattoo withchild, CC BY 2.0, 4. Pixabay.com (Public Domain), 3. Keith Allison via flickr. CC BY 2.0, 2. Arasmus Photo, Immigration Reform Leaders Arrested 1, CC BY 2.0, 1. Ferris.edu (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only)