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Breaking Free Of Stereotypes Essay

1472 words - 6 pages

If you say you’ve never heard a stereotype about someone else or yourself, you’re either a liar or very oblivious. Stereotypes are simplified conceptions of a group, and they are literally everywhere. People often tend to assume that all Asians are geniuses, black people like watermelon and listen to rap, white girls crave Starbucks 24/7 and are always wearing leggings or yoga pants, the elderly don’t understand technology, and homosexual men are flamboyant and love fashion. No matter what race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or age group someone belongs to, he or she most likely has a stereotype attached to who he or she is. Sometimes, these assumptions are in fact true, but other times they are completely inaccurate. Many are easily offended by stereotypes, especially when it comes to race because it has always been such a sensitive topic. According to Saul McLeod, stereotypes are used to “simplify our social world…they reduce the amount of processing (i.e. thinking) we have to do when we meet a new person” (simplypsychology.org). Basically, this means we oversimplify people into specific groups to make things easier for ourselves. This is no excuse for racism, which is when someone strongly believes that one race is better than another because of the differences in the typical characteristics or stereotypes of each ethnic group. If someone is part of a certain race and hears a cliché comment about it, he or she should not take it to heart because racial stereotypes are just social constructs and do not need to be believed or even acknowledged. In the poem “Pigeons” by David Hernandez, the speaker accepts the stereotypes about Hispanics. On the other hand, in “Black Boys Play the Classics” by Toi Derricote and “Race” by Karen Gershon, the main characters disprove the stereotypes of their own races to others just by being themselves.
Instead of breaking out of racial stereotypes, some people lessen the value of their race by accepting these hackneyed conceptions. This is what happens in David Hernandez’s poem “Pigeons”. Throughout the entire poem, Hernandez uses a continuous metaphor in which people are represented by birds and “Birdland” means America. The speaker compares Latinos to pigeons while contrasting them to seemingly better types of birds such as parakeets, canaries, parrots and doves, i.e. other races that seem to be dominant over the Latino race. The first line and last line both read, “Pigeons are the spiks of Birdland” (1.1). One would not expect a Latino author to use the derogatory term “spiks” when talking about his own race, but the harsh word seems to make the argument of the stereotypes stronger. The speaker also claims that, “Pigeons have feathers of a different color. / They are too bright to be dull / and too dull to be bright / so they are not accepted anywhere” (3.10-13). It sounds as if the speaker is just readily giving up his or her pride in being Hispanic even though it is unnecessary. To him or her, it...

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