09 June 2011

Lost in Stereo(types)**

When I say "Canada" or "Alaska," what are some of the things that we first think of? Naturally, a lot of the people who don't live there will think of ice or snow. Even though I've never been there, and I know that they don't always have ice and snow, I know it's pretty damn cold up there compared to what it is here, typically.

When people think of Texas, and often other Southern states, they think of heavy, thick accents, horses, tumbleweeds (for Texas in particular), Country, and rednecks. Personally, this gets on my nerves. I know that is sort of a double standard, for me to associate Canada with cold, Aussies with awesome accents, Florida with people who aren't so swift***, Ohio with cheese (and The Blog O' Cheese really helped with that one....!! He's really one of my faves though =P He's awesome), but it's really difficult for me when people stereotype Texas.

It's also difficult for me when people stereotype things that aren't necessarily geographical, like physical or mental issues. People with physical limitations aren't always limited by them. People with mental problems aren't always depressed. People with either problem don't always see it as a problem, and sometimes they're the most functional and successful people in society. A lot of the most successful therapists and counselors have had drug addictions counselors, therapists, or some kind of other problem that a "normal" person would think of as a issue that would hold them back.

The thing is, these things are exactly what push these people push forward, push harder to succeed. The things that may have held me in a state of "oh no, I can't function" are exactly the things that have pushed me to succeed in obtaining a degree in the field of social work. A lot of the guys in the work that I do, they see the things I've said and done, and in the end, the ones that hang in there, some of them have said that they'd like to help others with addictions when they're able to get degrees in the future. Some of the people I work with have histories of their own, stories to tell. Everyone has something that they've overcome, but they don't let their problems define who they are. They let their success define who they are.

These stereotypes, they are a silly thing. We all get caught up in them, and we all get caught up in them at one time or another. People are expected to look, act, or speak a certain way. When people see me, they expect me to be younger than I really am, just because of my appearance. That's a stereotype. If you haven't seen me, you can look at my vlog here. Yes, I look and sound very young, and that's something I have to overcome on a day-to-day basis. I've lived in Texas most of my life. Do I sound Texan? Not really. To foreigners, I sound American. That's about as close as I usually get.

Sometimes, we let stereotypes set in and really define people, and sometimes, they let those stereotypes get to them. They finally start following those groups, and it's unfortunate when they get caught up in something like drugs, addiction, or crime, simply because of their appearance, neighborhood, or family. Somehow, that has to stop. I've seen far too many that are in treatment simply because they live in the wrong place, but they have nowhere else to go. Everyone that lives around them is in the drug culture, and it is really difficult to avoid. There are the types that get caught up in crime because that's the only way that they can afford to live; mom spends their food money elsewhere, and they've got too many kids in the family to go elsewhere. They got framed. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they LOOKED guilty. Looked guilty? Really? It's really unfortunate.

When it comes to this, some of those silly stereotypes, like my accent, become secondary. how can we avoid these children growing up in the wrong environment get involved in a healthier environment, so as to avoid them being involved in any type of environment where they'd be associated with crime or drugs? This was part of one of my papers last year, and is related to an assignment this semester that I'm already brainstorming.

The point is, though, don't let a stereotype define who you are, and definitely don't let it define anyone else. I look much [edit]older YOUNGER (thank you mom for pointing this error out, I do not look older) than I really am. Even though I am about to complete a degree, I've had my own struggles, some of which people might think would keep a person from getting a degree. I'm not rich, despite my locality. I don't have a horse, and have never ridden one to my knowledge, despite living in Texas since 1994. I don't own boots or a hat, although I love my blue jeans. I lack a Texan drawl, and y'all is not a word that is spoken much in my language, unless I'm saying "I usually don't say that word." I'm far from skinny, but it's not from eating greasy hamburgers- aside from my mom's, which she doesn't make often, I cannot tell you the last time I had a hamburger, because it has been quite a while. I am not the stereotypical college student- I took 6 years instead of 4. I don't like iced tea or Dr. Pepper, or even coffee. In fact, I'm starting to have an aversion to soda in general, because none of it has carbonation, thanks to something that I'm taking. Hopefully, it'll help me to lose weight. I am an intern, but I do far more than paperwork. In fact, paperwork is one of the smaller parts of my job. I also love reading. Stereotypes? I don't fit most of them.

A few I do fit: I'm excited about graduation. My favorite color is blue. I like looking nice. I still have my parents, all my grandparents, a brother, and a sister, and live in a house. I'm shy, but I talk a lot when I get to know people. It's easier for me to talk to someone over the internet because I can't see them. I type pretty fast (typically 70-80 wpm, although sometimes it's as low as 60). This is a difficult task. It's hard to find the stereotypes I do fit. Stereotypes are difficult to place people in because they are very rarely true!

Next time you think about putting a person in a stereotype, stop to think about what you know about that stereotype, and instead, ask the person questions about themselves in general. People like to talk about themselves, not their stereotype. A person is themselves, not a product of those around them, and that is an important thing to remember when getting to know them.

Credit here

**This is a reference to the song "Lost in Stereo"
***I was born in Florida. Therefore, in applying this statement, I am also incriminating myself. I am in no way trying to offend anyone, and if I had no ties to Florida, and if I had not been born in Jacksonville, I would not be making that statement


Jon Hanson said...

After watching the movie Fargo people have a certain impression of Minnesotans - but we're not ALL a bunch of slow talking, hot dish eating goofballs. Just most of us.


♥α§ђ£ε¥™♥ said...

Is that what they're called, Minnesotans? I haven't seen the full movie Fargo, I only let my dad torture me through part of the flat, barren snow land with people with funny accents before I left the room in search of more fruitful endeavours. I'll remember that the next (first) time I'm in Minnesota.


Unknown said...

Alright, Loved this post, you make a valid point, :) but I have to play the devil's advocate since you've obviously at least had some psychology classes. What about the need to categorize things that humans have? I don't disagree that it's wrong, but people function better when things are grouped. It gives humans as a whole a sense of safety and allows our society to keep functioning as it is.

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