An Essay: Stereotypes

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Stereotypes are biased opinions, which one group of people has towards another. The primary problem with stereotypes, however, lies in the fact that they do not project themselves as opinions but, instead, are presented 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” (65). In general, stereotypes derive from behaviours, which may be observed in one, or a few members, of a particular group by members of another group. Instead of presenting those behaviours as having been observed in a minority, they are projected as being particular to the entire group and, indeed, as being immutable social and psychological characteristics. 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 theorized 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 fulfillment of the stated. Consequently, the realization of the settler’s articulated ambition becomes 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 inhabits. It gained legitimacy and, hence, became a justifiable ware, through the...
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