Stereotypes: reevaluating our evaluations

Stop putting your peers in boxes.

Natalie Phu, Business Manager

 

Class clowns, jocks, cheerleaders and nerds. We can all imagine the connotations that come with these labels.

And while it’s the first thing our minds conjure up, these stereotypes hurt.

Stereotyping takes a group tied together by a simple common trait and crams them into a metaphorical box. Usually, based on religion, gender or even extracurricular activities, these generalizations hurt.

In June, San Juan Hills High School alumni Olivia Fu and Solei Sarmiento aimed to hold CUSD accountable for their lack of response to BLM and their BIPOC students. They created CUSD Against Racism and gathered students from each high school, including Capo alumni Tahlia Vayser, to draft an open letter to the district.

They also created a form that allowed students, alumni and parents to anonymously submit their stories. Amongst the 851 testimonies received, 14% came from the unfair treatment of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students by authorities.

“[My teacher] would randomly call exclusively on Asian students to ask if they were going to doctors or engineers,” pointed out a San Juan Hills High School student. This issue plays into the racial stereotype that students with certain ethnicities end up taking specific jobs. High schoolers with different skill sets should be free to pursue any career path that they are drawn to, not limited to what others assume they want.

Likewise, high school is the time for students to find themselves. Experiences like meeting new people and taking classes to figure out possible career choices are crucial to this. When someone as influential as a teacher judges a student solely on race, it causes identity issues. Along with the stressors the average student faces, now they have to fight an exhausting uphill battle for individuality.

Adding on to the list of labels, students encounter classic high school classifications.

Movies like ‘High School Musical’ and ‘Mean Girls’ are partly to blame for instilling in us that varsity athletes are unacademic jocks and smart kids are socially awkward nerds. When we carry these ideas into high school, they put pressure on those targeted to reform to the stereotype. 

“[As someone] in cheer I understand that people’s perception of us can be negative. They see us as is a group of loud girls whose lives revolve around hyping football crowds,” admitted Anonymous. In reality, these girls have lives outside of cheer and to only look at that portion of them dehumanizes them. It’s hurtful having others perceive you as something inaccurate. For people who aren’t secure with their identities yet, these assumptions lead to questioning and stress.

Some associations can appear to be positive, like the idea that gay men are naturally fashionable or that Asians are the “model minority,” but that’s only the surface. I’ve been introduced as “my daughter’s Asian friend whose really good at math.” Not only did it take me off guard (because I’m bad at math), it made me feel like my academic ability was the only notable trait I had. It felt like the more significant things that made up who I was were completely ignored. These stereotypical moulds unfairly reduce people to a singular trait that, in my case, they might not even have. This results in individuals struggling with how they view themselves. These “positive” stereotypes encourage groups to base their self-worth on specific things. They can feel like their insecurities are invalid because of their expectation to fit the cookie-cutter standards. In expecting greatness from people, you set them up for failure.

It’s natural to make assumptions about people based on their first impressions as humans. Recovering from the subconscious habit of stereotyping takes time. The key to dismantling stereotypes starts with self-awareness. Identify thoughts that use “all” or “people who” when referring to others. This strategy allows you to catch yourself more often from generalizing groups. Accept that life isn’t fair and biases exist but know that we have the power to overcome them.