Stereotyping effects not only other people image of an ethnic group but it can also influence the self-image of that group. [Tatum, 1999] describes a discussion with her children while driving them to school.
A drove past a Black teenager running down the street." Why is that boy running?" my son asked. "I don't know," I said absentmindedly. "Maybe he stole something." I nearly slammed on the brakes. "Why would you say something like that?" I said. "Well, you know, in the city, there's a lot of crime, and people steal things," he said. He did not say "Black people," but I knew the cultural images to which he was responding.]."
The stereotyping of blacks as good in sports has often been at the expense of negative image in other areas. The blacks were considered a 'race of physical bodies (athletes) without minds or spirits' [Entine, 200]. Breaking this stereotype image to prove themselves in areas requiring high intelligence has required blacks to work harder than usual.
Ruiz, 1990] criticizing the stereotyping claims that "Stereotyping of American blacks is so pervasive and so deeply ingrained that many blacks actually believe the false images imputed onto them by majority group members. Believing these false images ultimately leads to self-rejection. Hare [In Ruiz, 1990] supports the notion that blacks are successfully socialized to internalize negative messages about themselves. Other blacks believe that what is said about the group is true, but they view themselves as exceptions. "
Ruiz, 1990] also argues that stereotyping, poverty, segregated and disorganized communities, low quality education, discrimination and poor health care are also affecting the mental health functioning.
ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSIONS
It is clear that black community in United States has considerable stereotyping problem. It is a credit to black community that despite all the hurdles placed in their development, Americans blacks have been able to progress to the extent they have. The present day anti-race discrimination regulations have required considerable struggle on the part of blacks and other members of human community. Repealing of segregation laws, laws for equality of races have opened new opportunities for development for American blacks. The dream of Dr. King that one should be judged on the content of one's character and not the color of one's skin will remain a dream until the stereotyping mentality changes to let people be given an opportunity to develop without the stigma of the stereotypes attached to their race.
Three hundred years of black history has left them on the bottom rung of prosperity. The poor people every where in the world, without any regard to color of their skin, are busy in the battle of survival. Petty crime, finding refuge in drugs and other baggage of poverty is common among all poor sections of the society throughout the world. The problem is that in United States, the poverty has been associated with the black race and the stereotypes of poverty are holding the blacks American from coming out of the shackles of poverty.
Recent floods in New Orleans showed the effect of a natural disaster on the poor sections of New Orleans community. Unable to pay for the hotels away from the disaster zone, the poor chose to stay in the last resort refuge of the dome and other places declared as refuges. The mismanagement of disaster relief compounded the misery of these refugees to the extent that water and food shortages created panic among the refugees. The criminal elements among the poor deemed it correct to break into the shops and get food and water among other things from the supermarkets. The scene is what one would expect from any disaster affected poor community. The problem is that vast majority of the New Orleans poor were blacks (like in all other regions of United States), they could not escape the troubled area and were made to suffer for their poverty. While overwhelming majority just pleaded for 'Help' in front of the TV cameras, the tiny minority of looters reinforced the stereotypical image of black Americans. The media openly accused the government of mismanagement and one reason cited for the negligent behavior was that vast majority of the affected were blacks.
United States is a rich country, richest in the whole world. We go in all corners of the world to help the poor, impose our version of democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries and spend billions and trillions on these noble endeavors. The plight of poor, the blacks, the Hispanics however goes unnoticed. The truth is that America has failed to develop a social support system for the unemployed, the sick and the poor, while this type of system work across the border in Canada and also in Western Europe. The reason of this negligent behavior might lie in the racial origin of the poor.
There is an urgent need to pay attention to the plight of the poor, better housing, and investment in upgrading the urban slums, better health care and creation of job opportunities will help break the cycle of poverty. Poverty alone can be blamed for many of the social evils such as broken families, high divorce rates, uncared and unloved children, drugs and violence. If America does not invest in improving the lot of the poor it will just be compounding the social problems resulting from the vast differences among the rich and poor.
The capitalist economy likes to maintain an 'acceptable' level of unemployment to oil the wheels of its economy, to keep the wages at a low level. Unfortunately the blacks and Hispanics are the ones who have to pay for this desire of capitalist economy. The problems of poverty confinement to a few racial groups not only results in stereotyping of racial groups but also sours the inter-race relations.
The current problems in France, where minority racial groups are playing hide and seek with the police and setting up property on fire is just a manifestation of years of neglect of the poor [ABC News, 13 November 2005]. The French government appears to have recognized that the unemployment in racial ghettos is largely responsible for this expression of anger. The EEC is willing to release 1 billion Euros to improve employment of the poor; the French government is planning similar measures. United States will have to put its own house in order and heavily invest in improving the life of its poor.
Awareness is an important element in making people conscious of the normal human instinct of typecasting. Anti-discrimination laws have done a great deal to improve the situation for minorities, women and handicapped persons. Improving awareness to remove the subconscious racial profiling and stereotyping will help remove the effects of unconscious stereotyping.
As regards the American blacks, they must appreciate that the race discrimination, the stereotype imaging, the drawbacks of being a part of the racial group will not go away by our wishing to do so. The end of discrimination laws came as a result of political struggle. The end of negative stereotype will come from hard work, education and improving our lot.
The conditions now exist where the blacks can come out of the shackles of poverty. As black Americans gradually move into the higher income strata, become educated and a larger proportion of them are seen to be a departure from the stereotype image the stereotyping would eventually collapse. Our both Black Secretaries of State are from privileged black families, they definitely did not face the difficulties of being poor blacks, but they acknowledge the struggle they had to make to prove themselves worthy of the position they occupied. They probably did work harder then members of other races. These role models are helping breakdown the stereotype image that exists in people's mind. Women also had to work hard to prove themselves equal to men in all walks of life. Sex discrimination act has provided the basis to demand their rightful place. The stereotyping applicable to women still creates jokes regarding their ability to handle tasks due to their feminine aspects.
Stereotyping, especially negative stereotyping is responsible considerable harm to the black community. This cycle can only be broken by creating awareness to only a small extent, hard work and visibility of American blacks in professional positions that defy the stereotype image will eventually destroy the stereotype image.
Entine, J., Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk about It, Publisher: Public Affairs. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 2000.
Feagin, J.R. And Sikes, P.M., Living with Racism: The Black Middle-Class Experience, Publisher: Beacon Press. Place of Publication: Boston. Publication Year: 1994.
Gates, H.L. (Ed) (1991). Bearing Witness: Selections from African-American Autobiography in the Twentieth Century, New York: Pantheon Books.
Ruiz, D.S., Handbook of Mental Health and Mental Disorder among Black Americans, Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1990.