Did You Know That You Are Stereotyping?

Posted on April 24, 2012 in Society

By Nakul Arora:

Stereotype is a generalisation or a belief, which has gotten popular, about a person or community. The belief is generally born out of a few experiences and what makes it dangerous is the fact that these few experiences are then generalised to form a full-fledged opinion, based upon which a large number of people make and pass their judgements. Who would know the use of stereotypes better than us Indians, for we use them almost all the time.

A typical Indian’s stereotypical dictionary would definitely feature pejorative words like Marathi, Gujju, Punjabi, Maddu, anna, mundu, chinki, etc. Most of these names are born out of regional stereotypes. Other Indian stereotypes are born out of ethnicity, religion, colour and caste. The use of the last one, caste, as a stereotype is something that we as a country should be ashamed of. Now, if we were to look into the reasons behind the why of their existence, we would encounter deeply-rooted, old beliefs, some of them totally unfounded for and even for the ones which may have some truth to them, it is totally inappropriate to generalise them and judge the whole community/area on the basis of a random few. A recent hate letter based totally on stereotyping created great ripples in the online community, wherein the author had given examples of Punjabi guys of Delhi (notice the stereotyping involves two areas) being rich-spoilt brats who gave way too much to show-off and were momma boys, with no independent thinking and low IQ’s. She also generalised all Punjabi boys to be similar flirty kind with a false sense of ego. Her generalisation was based out of the few, random interactions that she had with a few, Punjabi guys who as the description correctly describes were not so chivalrous. However, can she really say the same thing about all the Punjabi guys operating out of Delhi. Can she also say with full confidence that there wouldn’t be even a single guy (a flirt and show-off), who would match the above description, in any other area in India. This example is a powerful way of explaining how dangerous stereotyping can be in creating degrading views and impression about the other section without any prior knowledge.

We as Indians, use stereotyping, a lot failing to realize the mindsets it might be building. Even if it’s done with no intentions of maligning the other community, it still if done over time, builds onto a view based on a number of set parameters of that community. These views may become more fixed and worse if one encounters any negative interaction from a person of that community.

Stereotyping is even present in other parts of the world with Africans, blacks, jews and arabs being on the receiving side of it since ages. Even Indians have been on the receiving side of it abroad and what’s both funny and weird to note is that the same people who have been using stereotypes all their lives are the ones who make the most noise when they are subjected to the same. The Indians cry hoarse on being called names, based on generalisations, abroad and take that as their and their nation’s disrespect. It’s actually really strange to see the double standards adopted here. The Indian’s reaction can never be justified, for his actions back home are speaking a totally different language to what is being expressed by him abroad. Even though the use of stereopty anywhere is not right, for its always discriminatory, however, our stand against it gets weakened in our own consciousness for we are ourselves indulging in the same act. It’s high time for us to realize the maxim “We reap what we sow” and also begin to correct the evil by beginning from ourselves and home. So, the next time you meet a Gujrati, Marathi or Punjabi, I sincerely hope you address him by his/her proper name and form opinions about him on the basis of his own actions.