The Impact of Stereotypes on the Society

The Impact of Stereotypes on the Society

The Impact of Stereotypes on the Society


Stereotypes are overgeneralized beliefs about a group of people and, in many cases, may be false. Stereotypes are perceptions that have been developed over a long time and have come to be believed as a true reflection of the group’s ideology or behavior. In Necessary Edges: Arts, Empathy and Education, Yo-yo Ma points out that many people depend on perception instead of facts in their feelings towards others. Similarly, in Paper Tigers, Wesley Yang describes how he experienced differential treatment in American society because he is Asian American. White Americans have developed stereotypes about people of different racial backgrounds and this distorts their judgment and treatment of those individuals.

People of different racial orientations are stereotyped often while living in America, causing them to develop low self-esteem. Asian Americans are hard-working and must prove themselves with standards higher than those used to gauge White Americans. An unproductive Asian American is likely to attract doubt from locals thus proving the extent of stereotyping in American society. Americans have formed opinions about Asians that they consider accurate despite the lack of evidence. Ma quotes Descartes by stating that many Americans go by the phrase “I think and therefore I am” (Ma 254). The statement means that many people do not subject their feelings to second opinions or objective tests to determine the accuracy of their perceptions about others. In addition, it suggests that stereotypes are expressions of an arrogant belief in the correctness of one’s opinion and their way of thinking. Such beliefs are not based on facts or evidence; instead, the perpetrators of stereotypic thoughts believe that their perceptions about others are accurate thus define other people by their beliefs about them. Such people do not believe in the possibility of many versions of the truth. Yang shares the same view as he observes that “Here is what I sometimes suspect my face signifies to other Americans: an invisible person, barely distinguishable from a mass of faces that resemble it” (Yang 362). Yang implies that as long as other Americans view him solely as an Asian American, they will continue making a certain conclusion about his character, abilities, and strengths. In his experience living in America, looking at his face is enough to judge his character and ability. Such a conclusion is based on the racial background of the person and not on real interactions that the White Americans might have had with him, meaning that it centers on the information they have about people of that race. In addition, stereotypes cause resistance in the efforts to integrate different cultures among the Americans. Stereotyping is a form of discrimination, and it makes people of different racial backgrounds to feel alienated thus not part of the society. Asian Americans face obstacles because of their work ethic, which has enabled many of them to succeed in various fields. Yang observes that “Asians graduate from college at a rate higher than any other ethnic group in America, including whites” (Yang 362). This aspect shows that despite the negative perceptions about Asians in American society, they are intelligent or hardworking people who can excel if given the opportunity. Asians achieve success in academics despite the obstacles that have been placed in their endeavor to succeed, and it proves that the stereotypes that society uses to rate them are unfounded. Also, Yang notes that Asian Americans have worked hard to achieve their current status, which seems to attract jealousy from other Americans who try to demonize them and portray them as different people who deserve to be treated differently. Instead, he observes that an Asian’s success in studies should be used as evidence that they are similar to other Americans. However, Yang does not portray the success of Asians in academic studies as evidence that they are more gifted and better than other Americans, which would be his way of perpetuating the stereotypes positively. Instead, he presents this success as a result of hard work that every individual can manage, and desires that other Americans learn about those they perceive as different and understand them. Similarly, Ma proposes empathetic learning as a way of helping individuals to think of the welfare of others before judging them unfairly. He states that “Empathy is your capacity to imagine what someone else is going through; what they are thinking, feeling and perceiving. That will not only give you an outlook on who they are – continually corrected by evidence – but also what your alternative possibilities are” (Ma 259). In this statement, Ma implies that people treat others differently because they do not understand them and have not sought to learn about them. In many cases, this differential treatment is not based on information but the lack of it, meaning that many of the stereotypes that people form in regards to others are wrong. The perception one has about an individual is subject to change depending on the evidence available from time to time. As such, it cannot be true that perceptions can be formed on all groups of people. Thus, stereotypes deny people the opportunity to form accurate perceptions of other individuals in their society.

Stereotyping causes mental anguish among the victims. Yang experienced significant stereotyping that he has begun perceiving his differences as a liability. Ma and Yang have experienced incidents of racial stereotypical treatment in their interactions with other people such that they know beforehand what society will think of them upon an encounter. According to Yang, this generalized perception is almost negative, and it makes him lose confidence in himself to the point of attaching adverse feelings to his identity and appearance. He says when he looks at his face, it makes him look reptilian, which is an admission that he Therefore, it is apparent that stereotyping is common in American, and it makes some people lose confidence in the possibility of society viewing them as equals. Yang indicates that stereotyping denies people their individuality. He adds that it is wrong to look at someone as part of the larger group and fail to appreciate their individual abilities and confidence that define them. As such, stereotypical observations are wrong ways of perceiving individuals in society. 


Stereotypes have a major impact on society because they deny individuals the opportunity to form independent and accurate perceptions about other people. In addition, they lead to groups of people being denied certain opportunities on the assumption that they lack the requisite abilities or skills or that they are not good enough to perform certain duties and functions in society. As argued by Ma and Yang, stereotypes have no basis and, in many cases, they form wrong perceptions about people as they are based on false information or the lack of it. The solution to the existence of stereotypes in the society is for people to learn about others and gather as much information as possible to make conclusive viewpoints. Even in this case, the perceptions made should be individualized and not generalized to an entire group.

Works Cited

Ma, Yo-yo. Necessary Edges: Arts, Empathy, and Education.

Yang, Wesley. Paper Tigers. (attached)


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