Is it Okay to Stereotype A Majority?

“Alright class, to start our first exercise today I want you to imagine that you are explaining Germany to someone who knows nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, about Germany. Choose five facts you would tell someone from an untouched tribe in the heart of Africa, or the Andes in Peru, or from America…”

“That was an American commercial. I HOPE it was ironic. Well we all know Americans don’t understand irony.” 

“If it was an American policeman he would have just pulled out his shot gun and killed him probably.”

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I love living in the UK. I love the accents, the food, the parks and walkability. In most ways, the transition has been really smooth for me. However, there are a few things that I’ve had some trouble with. For one thing, I’m a bit tired of American stereotypes. I know I know, I should probably just shake it off. They are just kidding right? Can’t I get the joke?

It was funny the first few weeks, but now it is just annoying.

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To clarify, this is not a British problem. But it has come up a lot the past few days since so at least two of my professors have mentioned Americans in a very condescending way. One of my seminar tutors likes to crack jokes at America’s expense at every opportunity. And another seminar tutor has recently begun to do the same. I’m pretty sure they don’t realize that there is an American in the room when they make those kinds of comments, but does that really matter?

It isn’t like I feel personally offended by jokes against Americans. It is the principle of the thing that bugs me: professors can talk about tolerance and being careful with our words and actions towards other cultures on one side of their mouth while stereotyping certain groups on the other.

My communication teacher talks about humour and the importance of being careful with it. She teaches about how even seemingly harmless ethnic jokes can have big negative impacts. And yet, she still manages to throw in a few jokes against Americans whenever the chance comes up.

Why is it that it is okay to make sweeping generalizations about some nationalities/ethnicities and not others?

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Is it okay to stereotype majorities but not minorities? Is it okay to stereotype rich people but not poor people? Is it okay to stereotype some ethnicities but not others?

At the risk of sounding overly sensitive and “lacking in humour”, I always believed that tolerance means treating everyone equally irregardless of what color skin they have, where they were born, or how they worship. It is not okay to stereotype muslims and it is not okay to stereotype christians. It is not okay to stereotype Native Americans and it is not okay to stereotype caucasian Americans.

Stereotypes are harmful because they create inaccurate assumptions and prejudices about people you don’t know. As long as we are grouping people and classifying them by race, ethnicity, nationality etc… how will we ever learn to treat one another as individuals without all the inaccurate baggage?

So you know, I’m just learning to pick my battles. I like to think that by contributing to seminars in an intelligent way and doing my very best in school I can at least help dispel the stereotypes about American ignorance to a few of the people around me. On my first day in Cardiff, I met a boy who said that his opinion about Americans went up quite a bit since I knew about the Lake District. Doing my part guys : ) 

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Author: Susanna

I'm Susanna, a 20-year-old Christian girl incorrigibly addicted spontaneous adventures. My first dream was to become a pioneer. Unfortunately, I was born a couple centuries late, so I've decided to read, cook, run, and travel the world until my time machine is finished. You'll mostly likely find me getting into trouble and/or eating licorice. I am currently blogging the misadventures of a middle-school teacher in training. Come join me on my quest to become the next Ms. Frizzle!

5 thoughts on “Is it Okay to Stereotype A Majority?”

  1. Yes, I 100% agree! It is *so* harmful to stereotype a group of people, positively or negatively, because you’re automatically saying that you don’t care about certain people and you are instead assuming that everyone is the same. People are all different. That’s what makes us awesome. So while granted I’m sure there are Americans who suck at geography, there are also Americans who are awesome at it. So whenever someone says that all Americans suck at geography they are immediately creating a false identity for and putting down the Americans who are good at it. Then the Americans who are good at geography unconsciously start to underperform in it because they’re constantly told they’re bad at it. Same thing with women and math and .

    After moving to Australia from Canada, I’m a lot more aware of stereotypes than I was before. We were talking about stereotypes in English one day and I asked my class what some Canadian stereotypes were. Maple syrup, snow, bacon… It’s super frustrating because that reduces such an awesome country into food and weather and doesn’t take into account the whole picture.

    I’m super sorry your professors are stereotyping Americans! It sounds like you’re doing the right thing, though, and sometimes all you can do is just have conversations about stereotypes and work to not fit into the negative ones. Anyways, sorry for the super long comment. It’s an issue that’s close to my heart 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t apologize. That comment was awesome. You are so right. I think moving to another country has made me ever so much more aware of stereotypes. In fact, I probably stereotyped a lot of places, like for example the UK, before moving here. Now I am seeing how wonderfully diverse this place is. Human beings are far too complex to be organised into boxes!

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  2. I agree with you; I think the thing about minorities and minority groups is that they have been stereotyped to a far greater extent, especially because the majority is usually the one in control of the media. But even though minority groups are by far the greater victims in this discussion, that also doesn’t excuse the stereotype of a larger group, either. I mean, take women. Men have largely been the majority and in control for the last long time, making them able to stereotype women and objectify them on screen and paper. It’s not cool. But now that women are getting some say in the media, it isn’t fixing anything, but stereotyping men doesn’t solve the problem. And so while we can acknowledge that women of color are in a worse position compared to white women compared to men, at the same time we can acknowledge that just because one is worse doesn’t make the other “better.” They’re all just various levels of bad. I’m really sorry that you’re feeling a little alienated at school for this reason. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. I think that in order for the problem to be truly fixed we have to stop stereotyping in general, regardless of whether the victims are in power or not, it just doesn’t need to happen.

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