Courageous Conversation: The Effects of Stereotyping

The Center for Student Diversity recently held a talk on Nov. 2, titled “Stereotypical: A Courageous Conversation About the Nature and Effects of Stereotyping.”  The discussion was led by P.E.A.C.E. leaders Le-Roy Battle and Jessica Huggee, both juniors at the Mount.  Around 50 or so students filled O’Hara dining hall to attend the discussion which was aimed at raising awareness about stereotyping and how it affects a community.  

The first topic discussed was stereotyping and what it actually is.  As the leaders explained, stereotyping is the act of placing an idea on a group of people; grouping certain people based on specific characteristics.  Often stereotypes carry over into television or film where producers use this technique to quickly develop characters that an audience would recognize.  One of the first exercises of the discussion was analyzing three commercials and seeing what stereotypes they portrayed.

Stereotyping can change the way people act, leading a person to be self-conscious about who they are.  This self-awareness can quickly lead to self-judgment producing either a negative impact known as stereotype threat or a positive impact known as stereotype lift.  The thought process of this self-awareness is that by doing or not doing a certain stereotypical action, an individual would be worsening their stereotype.  The P.E.A.C.E leaders mentioned an example where Asians who were made aware of their race before taking an SAT exam performed better as an effect of stereotype lift based on the stereotype that Asians are smart at math and science.  Another example of stereotype lift was the “Obama effect” that Battle mentioned where African-American men and boys were shown to have performed better on SAT scores as a result of having a positive role model, President Obama.  

Both stereotype threat and lift create tension and anxiety in individuals leading them away from who they are: individual.  Stereotyping weakens a community detracting from the natural qualities that every person has.  “It has stopped people from doing what they want,” one student said.  Learning about how stereotypes affect people can only strengthen the strong community at the Mount.

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