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Stereotypes are not complex drawings of people. In fact, they are usually binary (either/or) They are standardized: they exist in the minds of a large.

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Presentation on theme: "Stereotypes are not complex drawings of people. In fact, they are usually binary (either/or) They are standardized: they exist in the minds of a large."— Presentation transcript:


2 Stereotypes are not complex drawings of people. In fact, they are usually binary (either/or) They are standardized: they exist in the minds of a large number of people. There cannot be a stereotype held by one person; it must be shared by many to be a stereotype. The stereotype has a “special meaning”: it usually carries with it enormous judgmental and emotional weight.

3 Stereotypes and Essentialism Essentialism different from stereotypes because essentialism assumes there is something genetically coded or “hard-wired” that allows a certain race or gender to be able to know or perform certain thing, both good and bad. The Négritude poets in Africa assumed that their “race” gave them certain insights into nature and spirituality Some have argued that there are certain essential qualities to genders that allow, for example, women to be better nurturers. Essentialism has proved dangerous to American Indian soldiers in wartime, who were (are?) sometimes assumed to have special fighting skills or knowledge of the jungles because of their “race.”

4 Stereotypes may involve essentialist ideas, but they can also apply to class, geographic region, shared interests (music), body shapes, and so on. Stereotypes usually employ some form of “knowledge,” even scientific “knowledge,” about another group of people. Whether or not they are truth, stereotypes create enormous anger, laughter and fear with those who adhere to them. Most of the time this knowledge is of course acquired by word-of-mouth, but sometimes scientific studies show that one ethnic group or another has more hate crimes, alcoholism, teen pregnancies, and so on. But whatever general statistical knowledge may exist about a person’s background, it seems ethical not deal with people as individuals, not as a part of his or her ethnic group’s statistics.

5 Walter C. Fleming. Myths and Stereotypes About Native Americans. Phi Delta Kappan. November 2006. Professor Fleming points out that Native populations are the smallest and are the least understood. In the absence of knowledge, the vacuum is filled with “knowledge” from poor sources Movie westerns Television shows, including cartoons Bad literature


7 Binary oppositions appear to offer knowledge and understanding of complex issues, but as Said points out, the knowledge that results from a series of oppositions when applied to cultures is incomplete and ultimately inaccurate. Yet these oppositions were used to describe, create, and constantly re-create the vision that Europeans had of for people from Southeast Asia.

8 Said’s general concept also applies to the way Americans have described, created, and re-created the idea of “The Indian” (almost always singular, not a community of complex people). Consider the opposition of white/Indian. It’s important to understand that in the United States the term “the white man” or “white culture” is inaccurate when referring to Americans generally. Certainly after the Civil War, but also prior to the Civil War, African Americans, Latinos, Southeast Asians, and man other peoples from various backgrounds were profound and important parts of American life. To call American “white culture” dismisses the contributions and the complicity of peoples from other backgrounds, and using the term “the white man” dismisses the important contributions of women.

9 The phrase the Indian “caught between two worlds” suggest a binary relationship between cultures when Americans and indigenous peoples when these relationships, depending on the tribe and the era, were characterized by trade, cultural exchange going both ways, and constant change. The phrase also ignores or downplays how Indian peoples negotiated with considerable skill and ingenuity their relations to Americans and to new technologies. As a kind of “Orientalist” idea, it suggests that Indians are passive and unimaginative, unlike Americans who would not find themselves caught between two worlds because of their assertiveness and ingenuity.

10 The term “assimilation” is certainly a binary state: one either is or is not. Often, when students observe that native peoples employ ideas and technologies that are used by Americans, they consider these native peoples to be assimilated. But at the same time when Americans use native technologies and beliefs (more often than most people know), they are not considered assimilated into Indian life. It is in fact very difficult for an immigrant of color to assimilate into another culture because that culture must accept this immigrant almost without prejudice. Otherwise, the immigrant remains and outsider, unassimilated. To become assimilated, people of color sometimes tried passing, or appearing to be physically white to live in a community without prejudice. Rather than assimilation, when indigenous people use ideas and technologies from American culture, they often do so to strengthen their own communities and actually to resist colonization. We call this appropriating the culture of the colonizer.

11 Another frequent application of binary oppositions to indigenous life is the idea of the zero-sum game. According to this idea, if an indigenous person employs a non- native technology or belief, then that results in an equal loss of indigenous culture. For example, if an indigenous person becomes educated, then they automatically lose something of their own culture, rather than enhancing their lives, as any other person might, such as a UWM student going abroad. People adhering to the view of the zero-sum game often see any kind of culture change within indigenous societies as somehow tragic because of what they have “lost.” Of course, like any culture or religion, indigenous societies change and adapt their most cherished beliefs and ideas so that they remain useful and relevant in all times.

12 Other Popular Stereotypes (from Fleming) Indians are getting free money from the government and/or getting rich from casinos The rhetoric of the gift The discourse of broken treaties Reserve rights Indians receive free education Trust status – policy, not law A tribal decision 63 percent of non-Indians get some kind of financial aid (free money) Indians receive free health care Part of the trust relationship Funding is at 60 percent

13 For more on dealing with Indian children in the classroom, see John Watts, “Native American Students,” Teaching Learning Committee, Montana State University, Bozeman, 2003, Papers (click on “culteralsens.html”).

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