Stereotype in retrospect
Stereotype, most of them, are able to stand the test of time. The basic contention here is: the validation of stereotype is like the accuracy of the stereotype itself, 8 out of 10 times in your personal experience those stereotypes could be cast upon the people who could associate with them.
However, stereotype nowadays is usually perceived as a negative term, a term that usually associated with ignorance, prejudice, and bigotry. It is definitely not something that counts politically correct, but most of times, statistically correct. There is an axiom underlined from this argument: everything is bell-curved from biology. If you wouldn’t agree with that, there’s no need to read what I wrote afterwards, since you would most likely turn emotionally to a dead end of reasoning.
For those who share a slice of sense of respect for the mother nature, stereotype, as far as I concern, not only validates in most cases but more importantly helps us to cope with unfamiliar individuals in the beginning. People are intimidated by things we don’t know. The first thing we do when we meet a complete stranger is to figure out at least some of his/her behavior, background, or manners, to match with some well-established stereotype identities, e.g. a well-mannered businessman, a beer-loving German, or a scarfed conservative Muslim woman. As soon as we link the stranger with certain type of stereotypes (a person could fit into different stereotypes at the same time), we would 1. react to the unfamiliar individual based on the image of stereotypes we keep in mind and 2. seek to evaluate more subtle patterns of his/her behavior, background, and manners to the stereotypes created earlier.
In many times stereotypes do apply in general and help people cope with unknown situations. I’d say it’s a valuable experience accumulated over generations. Based on my cosmopolitan experience, I always happen to validate a lot of stereotypes on the people I met in different parts of the world. Everywhere I go, the stereotype image could always find itself a majority status in the people associated with that certain characteristics. Things that are even a bit edgy, like the incoherence with Islamic community and secular society, the behavior and intelligence difference between different ethnic groups, are proven to be valid one by one not only in a holistic statistical sense, but from my personal experience as well.
At the same time, as I mentioned, exception and irregularity do exist too, though in a much lower frequency. Like in the Bell Curve, there are always statistical outliers that would not fit into the stereotypes. Those individual cases, statistically speaking, is still accepted as the stereotype only aims to cover the majority of the group of people it particularly associates with. People with exceptions could not really change the stereotypes or invalidate them most of the time.
I use myself as an example here. People who know me personally and from this blog probably sense that I am very heretic as a Chinese. I mostly indulge myself in the Western atmosphere and could only find a sense of belonging to the Classic China. I am social, outgoing, athletic, and most importantly, appearing to be the biggest Chinese reactionary among all the Chinese I know (quoted from my friend: A Chinese dissent who doesn’t go with Western mainstream either). Though I was raised in China with heavy Classic Chinese influence, people always mistakenly thought I was raised in the West. I don’t really fit into the Chinese stereotype (math nerd or lab guy, whatever your stereotype is) that is prevalent around the globe. Yet everywhere I go, I always have to make double efforts to appeal to others to dissociate myself from their Chinese stereotypes on me (since most Chinese stereotypes ain’t pretty, and neither do most of fellow countrymen anyway). Am I upset every time I was easily labelled as “Chinese”? Of course, many times. For quite a while I held a sharp aversion against other stereotyped Chinese in and out of China, for their presence help consolidating those unwanted stereotypes everywhere (Chinese are everywhere nowadays). People always come with the pre-assumption of the nerdy or coy Chinese dude they met previously or saw on TV to meet me the first time. In the old time I was determined to whitewash those negative Chinese stereotypes from my own example. After a while it turned out people just associate me with a unique category, whereas their perception towards the Chinese remains. After all, those perceptions towards Chinese are most likely to true in most of cases and are repeatedly drilled frequently nowadays. Over the time I just began to accept the fact of being a statistical outlier who has to make double efforts on everything everywhere I go.
What does this say? It says a unique experience of a person who fails to fulfill generalized expectations. But what does it do to the generalization in the first place? Not much. Unless China has 1.3 million people instead of 1.3 billion people, I might put up with delusion that every Chinese is as cool as me. But that’s not the case. Though I sometimes consider myself a victim of stereotypes, I have to say they are most of the time still valid. To me, to others, nothing is fair and some has to try harder than the others. At least I am glad I could have the luck to be aware of all these in an early stage of my life. In the end of the day, to devise a personalized plan to achieve whatever we want is the most sensible thing in everyone’s life.
A real wise guy would recognize the stereotype while be open-minded about the statistical outliers that he/she may encounter in real life.Let’s say you meet a black guy for a job interview. Though you know the odds of meeting a smart black fella is way slimmer than meeting a random white guy, you still construct your own assessment based on the personal evaluation of that particular individual being. Maybe you could have the luck to meet a very smart black guy (I claim that I have met two that are not really interested in dancing and aggression all the time but science and technology instead). Of course when the person fits most of the criteria of the stereotype you should immediately pull out from your sympathetic and guilty emotion to review him/her with the help of stereotype description. This is not discrimination but merely recognizing the difference among people.
Egalitarianism doesn’t really work in reality, noble concept though. The great Chinese philosopher Confucius once said “Education should be tailor-made in order to fit different individuals (因材施教)”, the denial that says all humans are the same and should be treated equally could pose fundamental social and political adverse consequences if it were assimilated in the societal governing guideline. That’s where most of social problems in the modern civilization stems from – leftism.
Then what about coarse discrimination? They are stereotypes too. I call that the prole comprehension of natural differences. Discrimination happens when the stereotypes combine with strong emotional attachment and evolves into a sort of absolute slogan that is universal to all regardless of individual variance. Together with discrimination, misconception always tends to exist among stereotypes, too. Nothing is perfect. But a smart person knows how to adjust the his/her stereotype image based on updating data.
The validation of stereotype is like the accuracy of the stereotype itself, not all are valid, but the majority of them are.