This is the second installment of a four part series called The Issue of Race. To get a little background on why I choose to do this series and the first set of questions, check out the Pre-Post and Part I.
Aaron was raised in Cleveland, Ohio he now lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife Heather and their three children. He is a man saved by grace and continues to lean into that grace every day. “I don’t claim to have it right, but hopefully I’m learning something on the journey.” Follow Aaron’s journey, Inspired by a True Story, by way of Blog, Twitter @aaronconrad and Facebook.
Dear Mr. Man is just a regular guy. Just like many of us. He is happily married to his wife, Adi, along with two fantastic kids. He accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord a long time ago. However, He doesn’t say that with any sense of piety. He is imperfect and that will be revealed on occasion. Dear Mr. Man can be found blogging at Dear Mr. Man and on Twitter@dearmisterman.
Nuke Dad was born and raised in El Paso, TX-moved to North Carolina in 2001. Married for 15 years, Three kids:NukeBoy1 (13), NukeBoy2 (10) and NukeGirl (6). He has been a SAHD (Stay at Home Dad) since 2005.You can find him at Nuclear Family Warhead, and on Twitter @NukeDad.
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Jarell Lee was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. In 2010, he graduated from Harvard, where he majored in Sociology and African-American Studies and worked on a widespread variety of racial issues through writing papers and articles, directing organizations, volunteering, meeting with students, faculty, and administrators, hosting events, and planning projects. Jarell is now a teacher at a charter school in Brooklyn through Teach For America. You can follow him on Twitter @jarelllee.
How do stereotypes play a part in race?
I would answer this question with a definitive “yes”. Between what we are constantly told through the media (news, TV shows, music, movies) our mind begins to put together a belief of what people are like before we ever have the chance to get to know them. It reminds me of the line that Ice Cube said in the movie “Boyz in the Hood”:
“Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.”
I think of the viral hit “Pants on the Ground” from American Idol. That song was all about stereotypes and people loved it. It is unfortunate because we need to see beyond that. There are entire web sites devoted to stereotypes now. For example, peopleofwalmart.com is a site dedicated to a stereotype of the kind of people that shop at WalMart. While humorous, it is only a slice of the population that walks through the doors of that store. I shop at WalMart and don’t look a thing like the people depicted on the site. Our mind sees what it is told and we are driven by a belief of what our mind tells us. For this reason, we begin to form opinions in our mind of what other people are like before we ever have the opportunity to meet them. To get to know them. To understand them.
Dr. Mr. Man
Stereotypes are the cause of much of the racial tension that people experience. Stereotypes by definition are “standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions.” These prior assumptions come from a lack of direct knowledge or contact with other races. Stereotypes are perpetuated by news reports, television shows, and other media formats. This causes one group of people to have misconceptions about another group (i.e “white people can’t dance” or “all Asians are bad drivers”). Stereotypes are also disseminated generationally.
The best way to get beyond these perpetuated stereotypes is to base one’s opinion on practical and meaningful interactions with other races. The more you know an individual personally, the less prevalent the stereotype becomes. People tend to associate themselves with other people who are like them. This is based on the “comfort factor”. It is important to recognize that we are all children of God made in his image. When we think in these terms, stereotypes become a non-issue.
Stereotypes used to be something that allowed us to break the ice with each other and good naturedly share a laugh; check the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts to see how it is done. Not anymore. No one has thick enough skin of any color, to allow this to happen. Our differences used to be something to celebrate, something that drew us together in discussion of different cultures, different traditions, different perspectives of the world-the chance to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Now, the mere mention of the fact that you notice that someone is a different color than you, or practices a different religion than you will get you instantly branded as a racist, a xenophobe or as being religiously intolerant. When this happens, there is no discussion; the opportunity to debate our differences in a civilized manner is lost. I believe that this is the way those in power want it to be; without conflict, their power is muted. It’s come to the point that the term “racist” has been tossed around so carelessly that it doesn’t have the power that it used to. This is both a good and bad thing. The charge of racism is a serious one and should only be levied upon those that have been proven to be intolerant of anyone different from themselves. It is used so often today that it has diluted the meaning of the word, almost taming it into meaning someone who simply disagrees with you. This is bad. On the other hand, those that wish to keep us divided and those that can’t win their argument based on their beliefs and the merits of their argument have overused the word so much that people can now see right through their phony indignation. This is good. Stereotypes have always been with us, they will always be with us; the important thing is knowing how to use them as a stepping off point, not an ending point.
For me, I see young people regardless of color; I am afraid of them. They dress like thugs, act like thugs, so I treat them like a thugs and try to avoid getting near whenever possible. It is hard to tell the good kids from the bad kids anymore as they all dress alike. So to answer the question, no.
Since race is technically a social construct, it seems that our conceptual definition of race is intertwined with stereotypes. Biologically, the brain likes to generalize, which makes it understandable that we all stereotype, in some form or fashion. The problem is that since American society is so segregated along racial lines, we have very few opportunities to challenge and refute the stereotypes we developed over the course of our lives. This is not to say all stereotypes are negative, but it is important to distinguish between factual evidence and stereotypical statistics. Unfortunately, due to societal barriers, the prevalence of ignorance, and the media’s perpetuation, stereotypes have grown to define races, rather than merely inaccurately describing them.
Have we confused race issues with socioeconomic issues?
I would also answer this question with “yes”. In the same aspect as the first question, we form opinions based on where people are from. Imagine if you were speaking to someone on the phone and had never met them. What would our reaction be if we asked the question “where are you from” and they replied:
South Central L.A
My guess is that many of us would form an instant picture in our mind of this individual and their socioeconomic status. This is where we are wrong. I, for example, was born in Alaska. I’m not an Eskimo and I didn’t live in an igloo. My Dad was stationed there in the service. I think much goes back to the media. We see Katrina and the aftermath and make assumptions. We see Utah and assume everyone there is white and a Mormon. The lines between where someone is from, what race they are, and what their socioeconomic status have no doubt been blurred.
Dr. Mr. Man
I don’t believe we have. Studies indicate that non-whites tend to be in the lower socioeconomic levels of our society. There are a whole host of issues that come with this such as drop-out rates, prison populations, college graduation rates, etc. However…
The impact of socioeconomic issues become less of an issue when people begin to take personal responsibility for themselves as opposed to depending on someone or some entity to provide for them (i.e. the government). It is each individual’s responsibility to pull themselves from their particular lot.
Everyone needs a helping hand every now and then. As a Christian, it is our responsibility to help those that may be less advantaged. However, as a black man…no, as a man…I recognize that the responsibility lies first with me before expecting someone to provide for me. I personally don’t buy into the fact that is someone else’s fault for whatever lot I may find myself. Nor do I blame socioeconomic conditions as the reason for not taking the initiative to improve myself. We cannot continue to teach our children that they are entitled to things they have not earned.
Yes and no. The largest percentage of those that are disadvantaged are minorities, which will instantly create one of the stereotypes we were talking about. Not every Asian is a math whiz, not every Hispanic is in the country illegally, every White person isn’t rich and not all poor people are Black. You wouldn’t know that by what you see and hear in the media, though. In many cases, rich and poor is a state of mind. Some people are content with a roof over their heads and three squares a day; others drive $60,000 cars, can’t afford their mortgage and still want more regardless of how many credit cards they have maxed out. Which one is rich and which one is poor? It is true that race plays a role when those in power look to shape the world the way they want it. The breakdown of the family dynamic among the Black community over the last 50 years has been devastating. Children who grow up without a father figure are more prone to crime and drug use. Teen pregnancy and teen drug addiction can stop a life before it even has a chance to begin. Most people rely on the government to solve those problems rather than taking an active role in their community to fix it. It starts with you, in your home, then into your neighborhood, to your town, your state and on and on. People of all races struggle, people of all races succeed; it’s a matter of the effort of the individual that determines where on the ladder you will be. Not all poor people stay poor, not all rich people stay rich; people move in and out of socioeconomic classes all of their lives. Only when you allow someone else to label you will you be stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.
Yes, not everything is about race. It is up to the parents and family of kids to teach them to appreciate an education at a young age so that they can grow up and function in society. Not everyone will get the executive suite, but they can do something other than wait on a welfare check and populate the earth at the expense of hardworking people.
Yes. Broadly speaking, we have, for a variety of reasons, chronically defined the entire Black race by the most economically disadvantaged of the group. Therefore, when we talk of Black issues, we describe their issues, forgetting about more affluent Blacks and their issues. Due to years of racism, economic and real estate discrimination, and poor schooling, a large percentage of the Black race is poor and/or wealthless. Thus, with the Black middle class either invisible in these situations or defining itself as something completely different from its less affluent brothers, we stereotype all Black people to be the equivalent of poor Black people. We fail to differentiate between issues that overwhelmingly affect lower income Blacks (i.e. poor schooling, prison rates, poor health, unemployment rates, segregated neighborhoods, low political/electoral participation, etc.) and those that affect the entire race (i.e. the nonexistence of wealth, real estate discrimination, discrimination by “ghetto/Black” name, covery everyday racism, etc.).
This concludes Part II of the series The Issue of Race. Please give feedback and comment below.