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Stereotypes - Essay Example

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Over time, people come to believe these stereotypes as literal representations of an undeniable reality and, accordingly, perceive of and treat members of the stereotyped group from within the confines of these biased opinions.
The United States, despite its being a heterogeneous, pluralistic society with a supposedly liberal and multicultural society, is a virtual hotbed of stereotypes. There is hardly an ethnic, racial, religious or cultural group in the US which is not defined in accordance with a set of, often unflattering and negative, stereotypes. Indeed, as Slotkin (2001) maintains, the entire notion of the "melting pot," let alone that of the "many as one," is nothing but a myth (469). The various ethnic, racial, religious and culture groups in the country have not melted into one another and are, most definitely, not one. They are separated by each group's belief in its own difference from the others and by stereotypes which effectively determine the manner in which each group will be perceived of by the others; stereotypes which are ultimately founded upon the exaggerated representation of differences. According to Aleiss (1995) Among the many stereotyped groups in the United States, few have been so persistently perceived and treated from within the narrow, prejudicial and often erroneous confines of stereotypes as have been the American Indians/Native Americans. Following a brief overview of the biased views surrounding American Indians, the translation of stereotypes into actual practices shall be analyzed in relation to the military.
It has been theorised that anti-American Indian stereotypes emerged as a consequence of the relationship between ethnicity and nationality. In his overview of this theoretical conceptualization, Slotkin (2001) contends that perceptions of an immutable relationship between ethnicity and nationality, compounded with an overwhelming determination to create a nation which was reflective of their identity, beliefs and worldview, literally drove the early European settlers to impose images of savagery upon the native Americans, thereby furnishing a justification for their annihilation. As Todorov (1984) explains, the earlier settlers had, either directly or indirectly, been pushed out of their native lands primarily because they simply did not fit in. Upon settling in the New World, they were determined to create a nation which reflected who they were and design a culture which echoed their values and promoted their social, economic, political and ideological worldviews. Within the context of this particular nation and culture building project, the American Indian functioned as an anomaly, an obstacle to the fulfilment of the stated. Consequently, the realization of the settlers' articulated ambition became inextricably linked to the removal of the stated obstacle, ultimately leading to a violent war against the Native Americans. This war, as Sandberg (2006) argues, was, on the surface, morally and ethically unjustifiable insofar as it sought the extermination and elimination of the territory's rightful owners and inhabitants. It gained legitimacy and, hence, became a justifiable war, through the promotion and propagation of stereotyp ...Show more

Summary

Stereotypes are biased opinions which one group of people have towards another. The primary problem with stereotypes, however, lies in the fact that they do not project themselves as opinions but, instead, are presented as incontrovertible facts. Indeed, as Hinton (1993) maintains, "stereotyping can be seen as a more extreme form of typing where we see a whole group of people as homogeneous, with the same characteristics" (56)…
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