There’s no doubt that by now you’ve seen at least one of the innumerable videos going ’round the internet, entitled: “Things — insert cultural background/gender/sexual orientation — people say.”
Now, while I think that most of these are hilarious, they’re also a scary representation of the way these groups are perceived, and how uneducated we still are about the world at large. I’m sure a lot of you — our international student readers — will agree, every time you’re asked if you have a particular talent or trait, it just happens to be associated with your ethnicity or birthplace. I’m sure Torontonians are also fed up with international students suggesting that they MUST love hockey and maple syrup and the snow, just because they’re from Canada.
While these videos bouncing around have viewers rolling on the floor laughing; just as many are upset at the stereotypes they are generating. The irony though — and to me this has been infinitely refreshing — is that in almost every case, the people responsible for making these videos belong to the groups that they seem to be promoting stereotypes about. They have been able to turn around clichés about themselves, embrace them and even have fun with them.
So what does this mean? Aren’t stereotypes offensive, oversimplified representations of our culture and heritage, and more importantly, aren’t they wrong? Well, not quite!
I’m from the Caribbean, and in my opinion, there’s no reason I should be offended when someone asks me if my parents work on a plantation with no electricity or internet; suggest that I must live on the beach, drink rum in a hammock all day, and play steel drums. These are things that I’m often happy to talk about, and equally as happy to dispel any myths that may come up. In fact! Let’s have a laugh about them!
The truth is, my mother is an accountant and my dad is a lawyer. We’re all of European descent but we are decidedly Trinidadian. My house is actually built on what used to be a plantation, but we do have internet and electricity — although I’ll admit it does get cut from time to time.
I live only about 10 minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, although I spend more of my time at home going to restaurants, bars and cinemas. We Trinidadians do tend to spend a lot of time in hammocks and we do drink copious amounts of rum — although I personally prefer gin — and I don’t play the steel drums, but my six year old sister does.
So yes, thanks for asking! I’m proud of my culture and the stereotypes that come with it, and while they’re not always true — and not all there is to me by any means — I’ve embraced these things about myself and where I’m from. I’m glad that we can have a laugh about it together. Hopefully we can both learn something from it.
What do you think? Are stereotypes completely presumptuous and destructive? Or are they just an indicator of the social fabric from which we are each cut: individual and unique, but all from the same cloth?
Just some food for thought,