People often find themselves judging others having looked at someone just once. Modern US society is a multicultural and multinational phenomenon that, despite its diversity, democratic thinking, and openness, imposes numerous threats to minorities. One of the population groups that experience biased perception on a daily basis is African Americans (Spencer et al. 416-417). Judging others, sometimes even angrily, by their skin color, nationality, or lifestyle is a feature of society overloaded with stereotypical attitudes.
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This issue has been discussed by Adichie, Amanat, and Steele. A stereotype is the categorization of people’s identities according to their belonging to some population group limits the diversity and adversely forms a human perception of each other and even of oneself. The present paper reveals the reasons for and outcomes of the stereotype threat and emphasizes the prospective advantages of such a kind of influence.
Labeling individuals by their belonging to a group has negative outcomes for each personality constituting the group. Such categorization is the result of a “stereotype threat” (Amanat 00:08:30-00:08:50). This term describes the danger of stereotypical thinking as an influencer of social psychology. The writer Adichie has shared her own experience of a “stereotype threat,” which she called a “single story” vision (00:00:10-00:00:21).
Such a one-sided attitude becomes a reason for adverse outcomes in the form of misinterpretation of human personalities and even the “underperformance effects” (Spencer et al. 422). Amanat discusses a similar issue underlying the harmful influence that popular culture asserts over the minorities thus forming a prejudiced public opinion about every member of a group (00:05:14-00:06:30). One of the minority groups of the USA society that most acutely experiences stereotype threat is African Americans.
African Americans Presented in the Modern American Popular Culture
Being a black person in America today is still a challenge due to the prejudiced attitude toward African Americans. The difficulties related to the perception of an individual are caused by the image constructed in the minds of people through popular culture. For example, a woman who comes from an African country is likely to encounter an attitude to her as the one from a poor neighborhood, illiterate, discriminated by men, and in need of help.
Being a young Nigerian student of an American university, Adichie experienced the same attitude. When describing her university experience in the USA, the speaker states that her roommate “felt sorry for me before she even saw me” because of the generalized image of all Africans portrayed in popular culture (00:04:49-00:04:55). Adichie was labeled with the idea that she reflected all Africans regardless of her country of origin and its level of development, as well as her own educational and cultural background.
Media and Literature Caused Stereotypes
People find it convenient to perceive what they see on TV or read in the newspapers as general truths. Such an approach simplifies the orientation in the multicultural society where one has to identify who is who. Adichie calls such limitation of individuals’ perception “a danger of a single story” which does not allow a white American to see a person from Africa as someone equal (00:13:40-00:15:00). Also, such an attitude concerns black Americans whose identity has long been affected by the acuity of racial issues. In fact, according to Steele, black people do not innately perceive themselves as different (3). They encounter a prejudiced reaction as the result of the labels and stereotypes that not only affect public attitude to an individual but also form one’s identification.
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The similar to media portrayal issue concerns literature which also imposes various labels on minorities. A student who had read Adichie’s novel expressed his pity toward all women of Nigeria being exposed to men’s cruelty. In response, Adichie said that she had read “American Psycho” and that “it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers” (Adichie 00:11:10-00:11:15). This situation vividly shows how erroneous literature imposes stereotypes might be when they tend to generalize the perception of a minority. The example of misinterpretation caused by a single-story vision shows that there is usually only one perspective of the attitude minorities obtain when being portrayed in media or literature.
Prospective Positive Changes
The issue would be portrayed differently if those who judge a representative of African American minority had a broader vision of the reality without any limitations to a single story. The contemporary individualistic society that utilizes stereotypical views constraints people’s freedoms, thus leading to adverse impacts on their performance, development, and quality of life (Steele 4). Adichie lists many examples of the achievements Nigerians have to show that Africa is diverse, and the only reason its people are seen as poor, illiterate, or disadvantaged is the one-view portrayal (00:14:33-00:16:47). Therefore, it is essential to have many stories, not just one, to perceive every individual in the diverse society for who they are and not for what the stereotypical vision of them imposes.
Stereotypes and labels influence people’s lives on a daily basis. When discussed from the point of view of African Americans, the issue of stereotype threat shows that it predetermines individuals’ self-perception causing harm to their identities. The prejudiced vision is caused by media, literature, and other popular culture portrayals that present a single story about a minority, omitting the personalized vision of every representative. The existing stereotypes have a powerful influence on people’s self-identification and attitude toward others. Therefore, it is essential to transform this power of influence into the one capable of showing people how to respect individuals for their personalities rather than a prejudiced belief about their background.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The Danger of a Single Story.” Ted.com, 2009. Web.
Amanat, Sana. “The Importance of Diversity in the Comic Book Universe.” Ted.com, 2014. Web.
Spencer, Steven J., et al. “Stereotype Threat.” Annual Review of Psychology, no. 67, 2016, pp. 415-437.
Steele, Claude M. Introduction. Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, by Steele, WW Norton & Company, 2010, pp. 1-15.