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A Stereotypical Article about Stereotypes Contributing to Stereotypes. What’s the point?

Created: 21 August, 2009
Updated: 13 September, 2023
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5 min read


 I’m writing an article on stereotypes about White people. I’m hoping TIME magazine might publish it.

 A Latino professor recently went to Puerto Rico, where there are hardly any White people, and the island residents all came back with the same stereotypical sentiments about this group.

 White people walk their children on leashes. White children run over their parents, always. White people are experts on other people’s cultures. White people are more likely to wage jihad against the American people. Oh, and they all put their parents in nursing homes instead of caring for them on their own.

 Sound pretty ridiculous and racist, right? That’s because they are those things. Those stereotypes are not true and, no, I’m not really writing an article for TIME’s consideration, nor is there a Latino professor surveying Puerto Ricans on White people.

 It would be absurd to write an article, and have it published for that matter, on stereotypes that aren’t true. I wouldn’t want to write an article about stereotypes, except today of course, unless it was absolutely necessary and newsworthy, because, frankly, as a journalist, the mere fact that you’re writing on unfair perceptions, reinforces them. Does one group’s speculative opinion on another group warrant coverage, especially when the first group really doesn’t know what the hell it’s talking about?

 TIME wouldn’t publish an article like this, right?

 Think again.

 “Stereotypes Persist Even Where Immigrants Don’t,” by Jeffery Kluger did exactly what I just described. The purpose of the article was to demonstrate that, in a state where Hispanics comprise only 2.5 percent of the population (ethnic minorities make up 3 percent), conservative talking heads, like Lou Dobbs, and the anti-immigrant sentiments they express actually shape the minds of White Americans with stereotypes of immigrant groups.

 Mind blowing.

 Specifically, it addresses a study by two college professors who surveyed more than 2,100 Ohioans about their attitudes toward four groups: Europeans, Asians, Middle Easterners and Latinos, specifically asking them about each group’s intelligence, income levels, self-sufficiency, ability to assimilate, and proclivity toward violence. Remember, 3 percent of the population.

 The results weren’t that surprising, especially for Latinos.

 Asians are the smartest. You have to be kidding me.

 Latinos are the most uneducated. Are you serious?

 Latinos and Middle Easterners swept first and second place, respectively, in being prone to violence. Really, I’m stunned.

 Oh, and Europeans are the most likely to assimilate. Fascinating!

 Please, pick up my sarcasm, because it’s not fascinating and it’s not newsworthy. It’s a form of lazy journalism in a time when it has to be opposite of that; in a time when hate crimes are shooting through the roof; in a time when stories that breathe humanistic life into dividing issues, like immigration, have to be told; in a time when it’s what we don’t know about immigrant groups that needs to be at the center of news coverage.

 It doesn’t take a seasoned journalist or editor to know that there are way more relevant opinions on immigrant groups, which are equally way more deserving of a TIME platform. Try people who co-exist with immigrant groups on a daily basis and love or hate them.

 I’m not knocking the professors’ hard work and I’m not even mad at Ohioans perception of my community. Heck, a White lady at the Gap here in brown-face filled San Antonio just insisted that I had to be a rich Chilango after spending a couple hundred bucks at the store. There’s no way I had the “income level” or “self-sufficiency” to spend that kind of money.

 I wasn’t offended, because a friend told me that Chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are commonly called) are well-groomed and pretty. Wait. That might be a stereotype.

 But seriously, I’m upset because media of TIME’s reputation is supposed to contribute to the greater dialogue. It’s supposed to add something to it. Whether conservative or liberal leaning, the article is supposed to push traditional thought and challenge the mind, expanding it with perspective and further understanding of where this country is with the issue of diversity. Telling me Ohioans, who are rarely exposed to immigrant groups, think the worst of them, because of what they see on TV, isn’t doing any of the aforementioned.

 Some might argue differently, but did we really need to waste a page in the coveted TIME magazine telling us what we already know? That media is good at stereotyping immigrants and America has bought into those perceptions. No we didn’t. We needed insight.

 Don’t trash the survey, but tell me how the Ohioans’ perception of Latinos have contributed to the 312 hate crimes reported in the state in 2007, which ranks ninth in the nation. Tell me how those opinions contributed to the modern day lynching attempt of Ohioan Robert Cantu.

 Or, here’s a novel concept: write stories that combat stereotypes instead of reiterating their obvious existence.

 That’s what I expect of a magazine of this stature. That’s what I expect of all American media, because, despite precedent set by my community, my mother’s going into a nursing home.

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