A stereotype is a perception that an individual within a certain social setting shares common characteristics. In other words, it is a belief about a person that is based on the perception of the cultural values of the society they come from. Indeed, the concept of stereotype in which people are judged primarily on the traits associated with their origin is well ingrained in American society. The idea uses statistical discrimination in which a previous set of statistical data associated with certain groups of people is used to draw general conclusions of what their conducts are likely to be. Some cultures are termed as inferior, unworthy, and associated with ill traits, such as robbery, murder, and terrorism based on the past trends. An excellent example of this is the association of all Muslims with terrorism. As a result, individuals from these regions are discriminated against without any valid justifications. Unfortunately, this has detrimental effects that have seen innocent people suffer. This essay will, therefore, explore texts to examine how the concept of stereotyping hinders these individuals from realizing their full potential.
Indeed, the rate of discrimination and discrepancies in mass incarceration against the minority group finds its origin from the concept of stereotype. Chimamanda, in her Ted Talk about The Danger of a Single Story, presents the idea of false perception people forms about others. Her story is based on imaginations people have about Nigeria, her origin country. She states that “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” The text implies that although the imaginations about a place might be real, the story that is developed is usually full of prejudice that discriminates against the inhabitants. The imagined story in most cases demeans the dignity of the people demeans people’s dignity because the developed opinions tend to be always negative. Once this happens, it leads to a wrong perception, which in turn, facilitates discrimination.
Chimamanda stresses on the dangers of stereotype by arguing that if she did not grow up in Nigeria, she would also most probably perceive Africa in the manner in which other countries outside Africa, especially in Europe and America perceive it in negative dimensions. These countries perceive Africa as a single country where people are “dying of poverty, Aids, and other terrible diseases. The residents are additionally perceived as lacking the ability to rise and save themselves from the menace and are instead, just sitting and waiting for the white foreigners to come and save them.” The text indicates that there exists an extremely negative perception of Africa which is further compounded by the fact that the whole continent has been generalized in total disregard of the beautiful cultural differences. The continent is considered substandard, where people suffer and experience all sorts of ills. She attributes the misinformed perception to the lack of factual knowledge about Africa which is a common cause of stereotype. Having been born in Nigeria, she understands the situation better, and thus, rules out the negative perceptions people have about Nigeria as not factual images of the country. The impact of stereotype robs the people of their dignity by turning them into lesser beings instead of strengthening for equality. When people are sorted based on race, gender, and age, among other discriminatory aspects, a negative perception is developed about them centered on category rather than the individual.
In American, innocent people have faced life incarceration only because their racial identity is linked with people of ill traits. Blacks are the primary victims of wrongful imprisonment and death after being charged with a crime they never committed. In American history, blacks are associated with crimes, such as drug-trafficking, mass shooting, raping, theft, among other awful felonies. As a result, the misconception has led to a stereotype that all blacks are criminals, and whenever an offense is committed, people of color are the first suspects. The people who propagate this misconception disassociate themselves from any good black people who have done great things that can be emulated to avoid forming two contradicting cognitions. Ted Conover, in the story, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, expresses how black people faced death for crimes they had not committed. Bryan talks of how his grandfather was killed when he was just a teenager. As an adult, he strived to help poor people who faced illegal conviction, but as expected, the conditions made it extremely difficult. Innocent people, comprised mostly of black people died in jail for crimes they had not committed or assisted in any way. He talks of a painful conviction of Walter McMillian, a client he was representing in court who faced a death penalty for a mistaken felony (Stevenson 33). From the story, it is clear that the wrong perception against blacks leads to painful outcomes.
Additionally, Stevenson gives an incident where a young black boy was shot dead by a white police officer who later claimed that he was reaching a weapon to fight back. According to the story, the boy was driving when he saw a police officer approaching. He became nervous and tried to reach for his driving license. Unfortunately, the boy was shot in the wrong judgment by the police that he had been reaching for a gun. As explained in the text, “The police claimed he was reaching for a weapon-no weapon was ever found-and the teen was shot dead while he sat in his car” (Stevenson 38). There is a likelihood that the boy’s race influenced the policeman in making the rush judgment. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of blacks killed by police was eight times more compared to that of whites. The report indicates how racial discrimination based on stereotypes has led to the killings of innocent lives, especially among the minority group in the country. Ta-Nehisi, in the story Between the World and Me, informs his son how whites killed blacks for no reason which was made worse by the fact that these killers faced no charges in court. Coates states that “That was the week you learned the killers of Michael Brown would go free…” (Coates 11). The text shows the extreme cause of stereotypes based on race. People were being murdered for no justifiable reasons, cases that became rampant because there was no legal action taken.
However, proponents of incarceration argue that it is one of the most effective ways of monitoring and reducing criminal activities. They argue that when individuals who engage in crime are arrested and arraigned in courts, a strong message is sent to other criminals. Besides, it is the only way to discourage criminal immigrants from executing their ill traits in the country. Because of the reasons, it is the most effective approach that can be used to prevent criminals from other countries who move to the United States of America from engaging in criminal activities informed by their cultural backgrounds while in the US. While there is some truth in this claim, I think the justice system should be fair in administering justice to everyone regardless of their backgrounds. Judgment must always be preceded with a thorough investigation to eliminate any chances of wrongfully punishing those who might be innocent. Besides, the concept of stereotype which in most cases has influenced most trials involving people of color should not have a place in the judicial system. This will assist in curbing the cases of imprisonment based on predetermined opinions informed by the origins of those undergoing a trial.
- Chimamanda. N. A. “The Danger of a Single Story.” Tedglobal2009. Accessed From< https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story/up-next?language=en> (2009).
- Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me., 2015. Internet resource. Accessed From< https://www.mercerislandschools.org/cms/lib3/WA01001855/Centricity/Domain/640/Ta-Nehisi%20Coates%20PDF.pdf>
- Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. , 2015. Print.