Stereotypes: Will they ever go away?

An idea that has been discussed on and off again in my history class (History of Women in America) is what would happen if some how every living person on the face of the earth did not have any stereotypes about any other person. No racial, no religious, no gender and sexual, no stereotypes of any kind. Would the stereotypes reappear, would a different set of stereotypes come into play, or would stereotypes no longer exist. It is an interesting question and the focus of tonight’s post.

I personally feel that no matter what is taught by the government in schools or by parents in the household, that stereotypes will ever disappear. Here is why, stereotypes are created not just by what you explicitly learn, but also through what you implicitly learn. So, by the same measure that you learn that everyone is and should treated equally, you also see people all the time who are treated differently than how you treat people who are in your same social class, for example, in life. This is just one simple example that shows how even a liberal educated person has stereotypes in their person and will possibly never get rid of them.

However, we are discussing a situation (which is far from the realm of possible, though not that it isn’t desirable) where all stereotypes have been eliminated from society’s and humankind’s collective mind. First off let us recognize stereotypes for what they are. Stereotypes are not normally based on present conditions although there do exist stereotypes that are relatively new. Most stereotypes are from society’s past, they are result of one social group suppressing another social group. For this simple fact, I think that stereotypes stand a chance of being eliminated. The crux of the problem resides in the first generation of children to grow up in our fictional world. In a world without stereotypes, the question is, would the children create their own new stereotypes based on present conditions and actions? If they do not, you will quite possibly have a large portion of people transferring jobs and positions in society that are more traditionally (in our society) associated with another social group. For instance will more women become leaders in industry, will more whites preform lower income positions and will more minorities go off to college and become managers?

There are a lot of assumptions in this theory, this is the major flaw with it. Which is why I don’t know for certain which would happen. It could easily be argued that because the society is going to look the same as our society, the stereotypes will come back into play, because every facet of society is divided up into already pre-existing social groups. These social groups could and in all likely hood will cause stereotypes to come back into play into society. Here is why, the people you are most comfortable with are people who you work with, live with, and socialize with. When those people stay the same, but the stereotypes of other social groups is non-existent, why wouldn’t the stereotypes come right back into play. Everyday, you see an older white male is in charge of most companies, majority of day-laborers are Hispanic at the very least and sometimes though not always illegal immigrants, receptionists are generally female, a vast majority of people in prison are there based on drugs and are also African-American, many scientists and researchers you would hear about are Chinese or Asian, the call-center that you call for customer service consistently constitutes of Indians. It isn’t just that these statements and observations are stereotypes, but that they are true in our modern liberal democratic society. The question now becomes rather than will the social structure change, to can it change? Since there are still mechanisms in place that cause social groups to not be able to change their position in society, such as sheer economics of gaining a college degree to be able work at a different job other than manual labor or fast food.

I have been debating this question internally for a week or so and can not come to an effective conclusion on the question of could stereotypes disappear from society. Personally, when I started writing this post, I was of the opinion that they could disappear. I sat on the post for another week or so and changed my mind almost every day. After a week or so of thinking and debating, I feel that stereotypes will in all likely hood not disappear. They will be replaced by a different set of stereotypes that instead of being based upon historical context, will be found in the current culture and society of our imaginary world. Also the stereotypes will suffer just as hard of a time disappearing in this new society as in our present society because there are other reasons beyond just stereotypes that limit a social groups ability as a whole to change the status of their current conditions. Stereotypes do play a large role in the suppression of social groups and I do feel that with stereotypes gone, social groups will have a much better opportunity to be able to change their position in society. Stereotypes are something that I wish personally did not exist but I feel will always exist in society, no matter how much society wishes to get rid of them.

Justin Yost is a full-time Software Engineer and a part time educator. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Justin relishes programming and learning more about anything and everything. When not working, Justin occasionally gives talks at the local PHP Meetup. In his free time, Justin enjoys backpacking and reading science fiction books.

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  1. […] I have nothing against leveling the playing field, I have nothing intrinsically against any females or minorities that I have met. I have nothing against them if/when I do not receive a job offer that I wanted but they receive the job offer instead. As long as the person is qualified for the position, as long as I was evaluated on the same basis that everyone else was evaluated on. I wish there were no stereotypes and discrimination in the world as I wrote about on Monday morning. However stereotypes and discrimination does exist, and it does become necessary to level the playing field, but I feel that the playing field is very quickly being tilted the other way. […]

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