Stereotype; .a fixed, over generalised belief about a particular group or class of people.” (Cardwell, 1996)
In part, stereotypes are vital for our brains as they allow us to respond rapidly to situations as we may have had a previous similar experience (McLeod, 2008). However, they also disadvantage us by makes us ignore differences between individuals; therefore we think certain aspects about a person/persons that might not be true. We create generalised perceptions of strangers based on our own learning’s, experiences and pre-conceived knowledge without even the blink of an eye. These instincts occur automatically and are most of the time help to cut down the processing time of messages in our brains.
No matter what form of media you choose to view there will be always be stereotypes. Whether it is via gender representation, ageist material or the depiction of race, the shear amount of stereotyping throughout the media landscape is highly alarming. A key example of the complex design of racial stereotypes used my media industries is the depiction of Muslim/Islamic culture throughout both television and film. Alsultany calls these “simplified complex representations” These are strategies used by television producers, writers, and directors to give the impression that the depictions they are producing are complex, yet they do so in a simplified way (2013, pp.165). These representations often challenge or complicate earlier stereotypes yet contribute to a multicultural or post-race illusion.
The question begs. If stereotypes are an automatic response by the brain based on our learning environment, can we change our perceptions of a specific race through channelling positive thoughts to combat what was previously once learned?
According to Brain Lowery, Associate Professor at the Stanford Business School, racial stereotypes can be reversible through the use of positive role models. This is exactly what a group of young educated African American teens are aiming to do through the use of social media. The group created a YouTube clip that portrays the average young African American male with strong moral values, a position that many media channels often are remiss to show. The group created the viral video as a response to the negative stories told daily in the media around their culture. “They don’t tell the full story about how young Black men are becoming leaders within our community schools.”
As use of technology grows across the globe, we should all remain hopeful that the use of new media could better provide a voice to those who wish to change the negative perceptions associated with the colour of their skin.
Cardwell M 1996, Dictionary of Psychology. Chicago IL, Dearborn.
Alsultany, E 2013, Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era, American Quarterly, vol 65, no 1, pp. 161-167, accessed 6th May 2014, Summons Database.
McLeod, S 2008, Stereotypes, http://www.simplypsychology.org/katz-braly.html, last accessed 6th May 2014.