Audio Version (January 2022):
Format note: This version is accessible to screen reader users. Refer to these tips for reading our annotated sample arguments with a screen reader. For a more traditional visual format, see the PDF version of "Defining Stereotypes."
May 8, 2020
What defines you? As people, we often consider ourselves to be multifaceted, complex beings. (Note: The author opens the essay with a personal question, a strategy to get the reader's attention.) Yet in every culture people stereotype others, and oversimplified beliefs about people and cultures have a negative impact every day. (Note: A literal definition of the word "stereotypes.") Even though America’s society is exceptional in positive ways, it is also exceptional in its use of stereotypes, which can be seen through the racism that still pervades the U.S. Stereotyping is a form of racism that creates a single depiction of a group of people based on one aspect of their identity. (Note: The thesis defines stereotypes and the criteria the essay will use to explain this definition.)
Most cultures intentionally or unintentionally manipulate the images of a certain group or person, and as a result, stereotypical depictions are a widespread form of racism. (Note: The essay focuses on the connotation of stereotypes and how they function in the U.S.)For example, the Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia can give a dark glimpse into racist depictions of Latinos: “The stereotypical depictions of Mexicans, especially those thought to be in the United States illegally, are harsh and demeaning. The men are portrayed as illiterate criminals. The women are depicted as hypersexual. Both men and women are portrayed as lazy, dirty, physically unattractive menaces” (Ferris State). (Note: Evidence for the assertion that stereotypes are racist.) In extreme cases, racial profiling can be considered a form of stereotyping. Racial profiling is “the use of race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense.” One example of racial profiling took place on February 23, 2020, when two white men took the life of a young 26-year-old African American man named Ahmad Marquez Arbery while he was jogging around his neighborhood: “Gregory McMichael told the police that he thought Mr. Arbery looked like a man suspected in several break-ins in the area,” demonstrating the most abhorrent outcome of racist stereotypes (New York Times).
Some may argue that there is such a thing as a good stereotype, but all stereotypes are inherently racist. (Note: Juarez addresses the counterargument to his definition of stereotypes.) Yes, many cultures have stereotypes that are positive, but are they truly beneficial? Sam Killermann states in “3 Reasons Positive Stereotypes Aren't That Positive,” “Positive stereotypes exist for just about every identity and have the capacity to be just as damaging as the negative ones.” Take the stereotype that people of Asian descent are good at math. Positive stereotypes not only set standards high but also discourage individuals from performing; good stereotypes can also alienate individuals and make them depressed because they don’t have the characteristics everybody believes they have. (Note: The definition argument leads to a causal argument about how positive stereotyping can impact people.) There are many forms of stereotypes, but one thing is for sure: there is never such a thing as a good stereotype.
(Note: The Works Cited page uses MLA documentation style appropriate for an English class.)
“Mexican and Latino Stereotypes.” Mexican and Latino Stereotypes - Jim Crow Museum - Ferris State University, www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/mexican.htm.
Sam Killermann. “3 Reasons Positive Stereotypes Aren't That Positive.” It's Pronounced Metrosexual, Sam Killermann www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/04/reasons-positive-stereotypes-are-not-positive/.
The New York Times. “Ahmaud Arbery Shooting: A Timeline of the Case.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 May 2020, www.nytimes.com/article/ahmaud-arbery-timeline.html.
This sample essay was written by Imanol Juarez, annotated by Natalie Peterkin, and edited by Anna Mills. Text and notes are licensed CC BY-NC.