Well, not exactly, but I was guilty of stereotyping my own husband recently.
John has been posting a lot of old military pics on Facebook. On many, he appears much darker than he is now. Maybe it’s the lack of sun here and the Canadian weather, but back in the day, he looked much more “Latino” to me. I commented this on one of his pictures. It didn’t take long for one of his friends to call me on it.
“More Latino?” he said. “Wow. What stereotypes do to a people. I know Blonde hair blue eyes Latinos as well as Black Latinos. There are even some Asian Latinos. The word Latino stems from the Latin based languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian and has an enormous range of ethnicity. Maybe she meant Mexican, but that does not pan out for exactly the same reason.
” My initial reaction to his comment was defensive. “Is he calling me a racist? How dare he? I’m married to a minority! My kids are half hispanic!” But after I stopped long enough to realize what he meant, I could see his point.
My statement that John looked more “Latino” implied that I thought all Hispanics are dark skinned with dark hair and dark eyes, which even though not bad in itself, is no more true than stating that all French wear berets, all Irish people are drunks or all women are weak.
Stereotypes will always be present if we don’t first change our own speech. Our words have the power to lift up others, or they can contribute to spread out lies.
Did I mean any harm by using this word? No. Did I maliciously use it to single him out? Of course not! In fact, If anything, I meant it as a compliment. Being white, I find darker skin tones attractive. But even positive stereotypes can be detrimental because they are untrue. Looking back, exotic would probably have been a more appropriate word to use.
That being said, I take a stand today and I call on you to do the same. Moving forward, let’s no longer be a stereotypical white people stereotyping stereotypical minority people.
A stereotype may be negative or positive, but even positive stereotypes present two problems: They are cliches, and they present a human being as far more simple and uniform than any human being actually is. –Nancy Kress
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