Ethnic stereotype

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(Redirected from Racial stereotype)
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A 19th century children's book informs its readers that the Dutch are a very industrious race, and that Chinese children are very obedient to their parents.

An ethnic stereotype may be either an overly-simplified representation of the typical characteristics of members of an ethnic group or a falsehood that has been repeated so many times that is accepted by many people as generally true. The use of stereotypes often leads to misunderstanding and hurt feelings.

Some stereotypes, based on unbiased observations of actual behavior, can be accurate and useful:

  • East Asians (especially Japanese) often bow when meeting others.
  • Some ethnic groups have a different conception of "personal space" from Westerners. (Latinos and peoples from the Middle East exhibit a similar lack of conscientiousness of the notion of 'personal space'). They often move in close and speak nearly in someone's face. This is often considered offensive among Westerners and Japanese, but in some countries it actually denotes conversational intimacy and respect.
  • Germans (including Austrians & Swiss Germans) are punctilious, particularly about time. It is considered an insult to be even a few minutes late for an appointment.

Ethnic stereotypes are often described as either positive or negative. Negative stereotypes present inaccurate negative generalization of a group and thus are usually viewed as offensive — in many cases, negative stereotypes are expressed in the form of jokes: Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon are the "Polish jokes" that have gained a certain level of proverbiality in American popular culture, virtually all of which characterize Poles or Polish-Americans as either being invariably deficient intellectually, possessed of poor hygenic habits, or both.

There are many other examples, lists of which can be found at the following articles:

Positive stereotypes describe inaccurate positive generalizations of a group. They may also be viewed as offensive as they may be viewed as putting an unfair burden or expectation on the members of the group in question, especially those who do not fit the stereotype.

Examples of positive stereotypes:

  • All Asian people are intelligent (Model minority).
  • All Arabs are good cooks.
  • All Jews are good at handling money.
  • All blacks are good at singing or sports, especially basketball and football (although, due to the fact that athletic ability and intellectual ability are often seen as bearing a zero-sum relationship to one another in the United States, this stereotype can also have negative connotations there).

See also


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