The impact of stereotypes on African American self perception - Essay Example

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"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" (Luther-King & King, 2007) At first glance, the message drawn from a line of Martin Luther's King's renowned "I have a Dream"…
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Download file to see previous pages This implies that character, rather than the hue of the skin should be the measurement for human worth. Moreover, it is clear that the purpose of Dr. King’s speech was to foster a spirit of unity that communicates the ideals of equality among the races. However, on close examination, one might also discern the subtle, covert insinuation that “black skin” is fundamentally flawed. Consequently, this statement exposes the double-edged nature of the social and psychological dysfunction associated with race and skin color in Western Culture.
1.2 The notion of Stereotyping Racial stereotyping has been a common cause of stereotyping since time immemorial. Research suggests the two most common paradigms of stereotyping are the cognitive and affective dimensions (Schneider, 2004). The cognitive component delineates on the fact that stereotyping results from an oversimplification of information that is processed by our mental templates which allows us to skip the specific facts and jump to generalizations (Schneider, 2004). It is a common fallacy to define stereotyping as a negative phenomenon, when it can be positive or even neutral depending on the nature of generalizations made. Several theories have been offered to describe the information processing phenomenon leading to stereotyping; the schema, group prototype and exemplar theory (Tan, Dalisay, Zhang, Han, & Merchant, 2010). 1.3 The African American Stereotyping Most pertinent to the African American phenomenon of racial stereotyping is the fact that stereotyping pertaining to members of the out-group is a directly influenced by direct interaction with members of the out-group (Pettigrew, 1998). However, when such modes of direct communication are absent, the media plays a significant role in shaping these attitudes (Rada, 2000). The cultivation theory sheds light on the fact that the audiences’ perceptions are formed, to a large extent, by the content the media displays regarding these out-groups (Tan, Dalisay, Zhang, Han, & Merchant, 2010). Pettigrew has argued that the fact whether a racial stereotype is positive or negative depends on how the group’s members have evaluated the interaction with the out-group’s members (Pettigrew, 1998). If the interaction is perceived as positive then the racial stereotype is likely to be positive and vice versa. According to Allport (1954), “what humans see, what they interpret, and what they sense becomes blended with cognitive act” (Cosby, 1994). Therefore, cultural messages received in a social context contribute to the mental framework used to organize knowledge and create generalization about race. The nature of intrinsic value ascribed to black skin has its genesis in slavery and thus is the foundation for the mental framework of beliefs about African Americans. Many empirical studies indicate that the internalization of European standards of beauty, result in ---many African Americans struggle with inferiority and self hate. Consequently, Jackson et al 2000 maintains that the social construction of whiteness creates a complex racial caste system that negatively affects nonwhites. In fact, it has been expressed by various researchers that the supervisor of the slave owning family showed preferential treatment towards children who belonged to African American backgrounds simply on the basis that they were the offspring of the white slave owner (Schneider & Schneider, 2006). Many empirical studies indicate that the internalization of European standards of beauty is the root of "colorism" or color bias that has plagued the African American community since slavery. Furthermore, Collins notes “historically in the American context, young women with ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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