Oppressive stereotypes

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

The following submission is in response to the following article: http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/i-cant-breathe-until-everyone-can-breathe and writing prompt: Like Gerald Mitchell, dig deep to identify and explain how you personally can treat people more justly. Describe what treating people fairly and humanely looks like to you. How might your actions make a difference where you live (school and community)? In greater society?

I am a black man. In today’s society as a black man you already start off with 2 strikes against you. Strike 1 is because you are black, which means that people automatically see you in a violent or negative stereotypical way. Strike 2 is because you are a man. Being a man, biologically we are already stereotyped to be more aggressive than women. So, I was always taught that I had to be twice as good and also learn how to be a chameleon who can blend in and articulate his thoughts to any and everybody in order to succeed in life. To be culturally diverse is key.

Now to address the “YES!” article. I agree that we all have a hand in the unfortunate events that has happened in Ferguson, dealing with Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin to a certain extent. Mitchell references exploitation as the main culprit or root of the mistreatment and tragic deaths of unarmed black people. Apart from these events, I still feel that as a psychology major and as an educated black man, this problem goes beyond the naked eye and into our own thoughts.

Negative stereotypes are the main problem when dealing with treating people unjustly.Having certain neighborhoods for low income citizens and not giving them an adequate chance to uplift themselves out of poverty is unjust. Companies not giving individuals opportunities because of their race or gender is unjust; and the underlying concept is stereotyping. If we could get rid of these negative stereotypes in our mind then we could start to change as a whole and treat people fairly. In the eyes of the oppressed, or in this circumstance the black community, it is on us to provide actions that help break down theses oppressive stereotypes. We cannot add confirmation bias to these stereotypes by showing negative actions, this will only strengthen those negative stereotypes about our race as a whole. In the eyes of the oppressor or the people treating others unjustly, their view point needs to change. Seeing us in a different light than what has been portrayed of us throughout history, will break down their view point and stereotypes of us. Also, they will begin see that we are all just human beings who deserved to be treated equally. This, in my eyes, is how we all have a hand in the tragic things that has happened in this world and how we can do better.

Exploitation in the workplace, such as minimum wages, that was referenced in the article,I feel has no part in the unfortunate events because there are so many opportunities out in the world that are accessible to better ourselves. An example of this is one is working at subway for $7.25 an hour but for the work that person does, $9.25 seems like a much better pay. There is always restaurants or other workplaces that will pay more, but the problem is getting an equal opportunity in order to cease that moment and get the better paying job. That problem occurs because of the negative stereotypes. A store owner has the chance to employ either a white male or black male, and the owner already has negative thoughts in his head about how black people are never on time, don’t know how to talk to people, or are uneducated. If the employer believes stereotypes like this, it is no surprise that he will employ the white male. The stereotypes hinder our success.

My actions make a difference in my community because I am doing my part to break down these negative stereotypes. I am a productive member of society, a black male, and in college trying to make a better life for myself. Sometimes, when I run into people, they tend to treat me unequally and judge me right from the start. However, when I tell them I am in college,a private college at that, they then start to treat me as if I am their equal. My talking “differently”or as I call it, proper, I have begun to chip away at that stereotype that has been embedded in their head. This all comes down to what Maya Angelou said: “When you know better, you can do better.” When we break down these ignorant stereotypes and educate one another on what our cultures are really like then we can do better and treat people more justly.