- How will stereotyping and prejudice impede my success?
My high school experience wasn’t all that bad. Sure, Avery made it difficult by instilling ideas that my actions didn’t belong to me, but so did other people. In tenth grade I met a girl, named Lauren, who seemed to be a decent person, until she told me her friends were “too white” to hang out with me.
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused.
“You know, they like talking about cottages and golf clubs.”
I forced a smile and walked away, keeping the idea in mind that I wasn’t the spokesmodel for cottages and golf clubs.
What about Mohandas Gandhi? Was he the face of freedom and persistence? Did he fit the stereotype of an Indian man? He liberated India and led the country to its independence in 1947. He was a prominent leader of Indian nationalism and harmonized the country to severe British ties. He led the country’s national congress as well as a civil disobedience campaign, The Salt March, which led to the imprisonment of many of his volunteers. He was imprisoned seven times on different occasions for having tried to overthrow the government. Did he look like a political badass? No? Well, he definitely was.
What about bell hooks? Was she the face of intellect, feminism and an equal future? Did she fit the stereotype of an African-American woman? She wrote compelling books on feminist theory, capitalism and oppression; her book Ain’t I a Woman covers ideas about femininity, class and race and how those ideas intertwine. She attended segregated schools and faced prejudice everyday and still managed to become a teacher, a writer and a social activist. Her essays on inequality continue to inspire people. Did she look like social radical? No? Well, she definitely was.
What about me? Do I not look like the face of cottages and golf clubs? Do my clothes not invoke thoughts of power, wealth and happiness? Am I not the face of perseverance, ambition and optimism? I attended six different schools before University, endured a divorce and the death of a parent. I won two scholarships in my senior year and three bursaries in my freshman year. I juggle two jobs and six courses and still manage to give and accurate definition of the word “sleep.” I live on my own, adopted a stray cat and still manage to feed myself. Do I not sound like the face of cottages and golf clubs? No? Good, because I’m more than that.
My mother always told me that regardless of how hard I try I will never be able to be liked by everyone, simply because a concept that excites ten people has the ability to make eight people upset. I used to think she was being bitter but over the years I’ve realized, through personal experiences, that I really can’t please everyone. I truly feel pity for those who allow stereotypes to guide them in life. I look back and remember Avery and Lauren and worry about all the time they’ve spent in their small, sheltered, stereotypical worlds where Cubans roll cigars; Asians know martial arts; and Italians are a part of the mafia. These thoughts will negatively affect their future; for example, if they assume their blonde boss is a ditz and decide to explain the new company policy in baby talk. Intelligence has no skin colour and talent has no race. The standards of bigots and the media are not important to me, especially if their focus is to degrade, belittle and control. Labels are immature ways of categorizing people and diminishing great personalities, rendering individuals as mere cans of soup. Why do we label people? Why do we set expectations for people without having met them yet? One thing is for certain, my mother was right. I shouldn’t worry about pleasing others because I know that the colour of my skin, the ideals of my society and the words of bigots have nothing to do with the vibrancy of my character.
 Jack, Homer A. The Gandhi Reader; a Source Book of His Life and Writings,. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1956. Print.