Stop Stereotyping!

2012 is an election year, and many politicians are placing campaign ads all over the country. They’re trying to discredit their opponents and making themselves look like the resolution of all misfortune.

Some are using the concept of “Trolling the Media” (intentionally making a sensationalistic or offensive remark to attract a lot of media/news coverage). Trolling the media isn’t anything new. It has been used throughout history for marketing.

Although it is effective in getting coverage (besides the usual negative comments or responses from the public), it encourages an “act-before-you-think” attitude. This often promotes old and creates new stereotypes that can hurt the development of diversity.

The United States is a mosaic of individuals that makes a rich and culturally diverse country. Besides the Native Americans, we all are immigrants. We came here to seek a better life for ourselves and future generations. We have created a melting pot of all cultures and races. No matter where you are from, the color of your skin, what you look like, or who you love; we are the people that make America great. We are the pride of the United States.

However, when politicians or influential leaders start trolling the media, it puts a different perspective on our individualism. Maybe we aren’t as united as we thought because of our personal agenda, personal bigotry, or jealousy.

Our most recent example is the news coverage of an emerging superstar, Jeremy Lin. Lin is a basketball player born in Los Angeles. He is an underdog but an exceptional player and is now an overnight media sensation. Many have downplayed his success even though he has worked hard to reach his dream and become the first American player to be of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.

Because Jeremy Lin looks differently, controversy erupted shortly after a few great performances that put the New York Knicks in people’s radar. First, heavy weight boxer Floyd Mayweather tweeted: “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he is Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise”.  Then, Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock had to apologize for his tweet which insulted Lin’s sexual ability, using a negative stereotype about Asians. Also, Madison Square Garden showed a fan’s video of Lin’s head popping out of a fortune cookie. Fans have taken to calling him “Yellow Mamba,” allegedly a play on Kobe Bryant’s nickname of “Black Mamba”.

Probably the worst of it happened early morning on February 18. ESPN commentator and the ESPN mobile website used the phrase “Chinks in the Armor” regarding the Knick’s loss to the Hornets that Friday night. Although it was pulled immediately, it was read and distributed throughout the Internet. The website writer was fired and the commentator was suspended for 30 days. Lin stated that ESPN has apologized and he is fine with it.

Should he be? Stereotyping is hurtful. We’ve all grown up with it. No matter whom you are, we’ve all endured being mocked and stereotyped. It sets us back in social situations and affects our image.

Ultimately, the effect of stereotyping can change the way we live, work, interact, or do business with others. On an even larger scale, it can play a great role in business deals that include diversified markets and communities. Stereotypes can destroy confidence and the ability to work and function successfully.

Stereotyping is hard to avoid. Certain nuances and attributes are attached to cultures and become engrained in our minds whether we believe them or not. But, it’s not difficult to understand and learn to be sensitive to the manner. When you work with a community and you’re building a relationship you need to understand the cultural and social difference. Help reduce the stereotype by learning.

The most powerful way to diminish stereotypes is by education and it starts now. Don’t wait for an incident to happen.

Businesses should start educating its staff to be aware of the damage stereotypes can do. Businesses who wish to work with diversified communities should get involved and understand cultures and social structure of such communities before entering into a business agreement.

The more you know, the less stereotypes will become a stigma in everyone’s life. So, read, attend a seminar or class, and expand your knowledge of the people around you. We need to foster a strong world of diversity for us and our kids.


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