America has long since been considered the melting pot of the world; a land of opportunity and a place where dreams can come true. The Native Indians, the true Americans, were gradually introduced to an influx of ethic races when the Puritans from landed and made a new home in an unknown terrain. Throughout the early years, droves of people came to , seeking refuge from religions or political persecution. Most came with their own kin. English, Italians, the Irish, and Germans were among the earliest settlers to . As the news of the new land grew, people from other exotic lands like and , began to filter into the borders of the . People wanted a safe place to raise their children. A new world where they would not be judged based on their background or religious beliefs. Over time, in certain areas of the country, people formed communities with their own kind, some can still be seen today in larger cities like New York and Chicago . Little , or Chinatown are names well known to most Americans, but despite the separation of cultures and ethic races, has truly become the most diverse country on the planet.
Sadly, not all people believed in the true freedoms of all who lived on American soil when the country was still newly formed. Slavery is among the most atrocious and degrading practices in the world. was no exception. An old African proverb, “We came in many ships but we now ride in the same boat”, is a powerful statement that can take on a variety of meanings. And while slavery is the crux of the proverb, it can be molded to fit other ideals and beliefs about ethic races and their struggles to gain acceptance and identity.
Stereotyping, by definition is a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. Thrusting a stereotype on a group of people, forces them to set aside their individual identity and become part of a larger group of a representative sort. Blondes are dumb, Gay men are fashionable, Asians are excellent students, are typical stereotypes heard in society. However, if you that the former statement about Asians being excellent students, pause and ask yourself why? Is their education system better than other parts of the world? Or could it be put in simpler terms as Nguyen stated in her essay, “I got good grades because I feared the authority of the teacher”? Perhaps it is similar to Etzioni’s statement “racial categories are passed from generation to generation” combined with generational stereotyping or racist remarks associated with those races? For whatever reason, stereotyping and racial groups are common in our society. This sometimes forces people of similar ethnic backgrounds to pull together in times of strife to fight for a common goal of equality whether they wish to or not. If Black Americans did not fight for their equality in the early 1960’s what would this country be like today? Ask yourself, are all Asians good students? Can all African’s run fast? Are all Irishmen drinkers? The answer to this question is no, and despite the fact that every person is an individual, like the proverb stated earlier, many people find themselves in the “same boat” grouped together with their race even in a place as diverse as America.
Most recently, the Muslim community has come into the foreground as a new group of people stereotyped by society. Muslims are fanatically religions, Muslims are terrorists, and those who follow Islam promote violence. Theses are all misconceptions of a religious and ethic group of people, stereotyped together after various incidents around the world. “Allah’s greatest gift-a creative and independent mind” is the basic teaching of the Islamic religious. Islam, like every other religion has fundamentalist followings so is it fair of us to say all Catholics despise gay people any more than saying all Muslims are terrorists? (Patel, 505)
While stereotyping may never subside in our lifetime, we can all help dispel myths and racists beliefs by teaching our children a variety of cultures and histories from countries and groups of people from around the world. Perhaps one day we can stop putting labels on people or forcing them into categories, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and just call everyone Americans.
Many may come to this land from different parts of the world, but there is no reason they should be lumped together in a group, or “boat” and force us to realize everyone is not the same. They should be able to maintain their identity within their own race, while being treated as separate and not merely a group. We should educate ourselves and see people as free individuals, free from judgment based on their background, religion, or color of their skin. Free from stereotyping and racial remarks, free to be free. As Martin Luther King stated so eloquently “When we allow freedoms ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Nguyen, Bich Minh. “The Good Imigrant Student” The Presence of Others 4th. Nancy Perry. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, (2004): 441-448
Etzioni, Amitai. “The monochrome Society.” The Presence of Others 4th. Nancy Perry. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, (2004): 467-500
Patel Eboo. “On Nurturing a Modern Muslim Identity.” The Presence of Others 4th. Nancy Perry. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, (2004): 501-505
Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” Delivered at the March of Washington for Jobs and Freedom Washington D.C. – August 28, 1963