Social Question

TheJoker's avatar

Is positive stereotyping, on racial / ethnic / national grounds, also a bad thing?

Asked by TheJoker (2795points) February 1st, 2010

By this I mean things like…. Japanese people are all good at maths. Jewish people are good with money. The French are great love makers. Indians are all intelligent.
My personal perspective is that they probably are a bad thing too.

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44 Answers

cookieman's avatar

I wouldn’t say “good” or “bad”, but as soon as I see the word “all” in a statement about a group of people, I know it’s bullshit.

laureth's avatar

I would call it unbeneficial, to the stereotyped group and to the others. It obscures truth and provides just as false and one-dimensional a picture as “bad” stereotyping.

Trillian's avatar

You forget to say that British people can’t cook,~

Coting's avatar

Don’t we have more michelin stars per capita than you? I’m guessing your American.

_Jade_'s avatar

I am of the opinion that any stereotyping is not beneficial. I wouldn’t say that positive stereotyping is exactly a bad thing, but it tends to do away with individuality.

Coting's avatar

It’s similar to nationalism, so yes it’s bad.

life_after_2012's avatar

It seems harmless when its a compliment, but eventually somebody would complain about it. thats just my opinion.

Tenpinmaster's avatar

Well I don’t’ think its a good thing or bad thing, its human nature to sum up groups of people by stereotypes. It’s just what we do directly and indirectly. Remember stereotypes do have a basic for truth. So yes, a lot of japanese people are good at math and a lot of Jewish people are better with finances. But of course, it isn’t always the case.

Harp's avatar

It demonstrates a lack of critical thinking and a tendency toward sweeping generalization. It’s hard to imagine that someone who is given to making this kind of generalization would draw the line at “positive” stereotyping. The positive and the negative stereotypes tend to come packaged as a boxed set.

liminal's avatar

Wait. What?! Those are stereotypes? Ah, crud. I am so breaking up with my french girlfriend.~

I agree with harp. They are perceptions that point to an underlying willingness to categorize and judge people en masse, rather than people as individuals with their own unique personhood. Something that uninformed seems very limiting to me.

Blackberry's avatar

It’s not bad in the sense that it should be forbidden, but like someone else said it still disrehards individuality and character. When I was a teen in high school, I was more of a bookworm, but people still asked me: “Why don’t you play sports, black people are really athletic and you would do well…” etc. I’m sure they were just ignorant on the subject and didn’t know any better and meant well, but it’s still a stereotype.

cookieman's avatar

Here’s the other thing about “positive stereotypes”...

Everytime I’ve heard one uttered it’s as a left-handed compliment. Example:

“Yeah, Billy came in second in the math competition. This kid in his class, “Ling” won. But what do you expect? The Asians are amazing at math.”

See what I mean?

CaptainHarley's avatar

When combating terrorism, failure to “stereotype” ( i.e. “profile” ) can make people dead. Other than that, it’s generally a bad thing because it leads to unrealisitic conclusions.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yes they’re just as problematic.

Steve_A's avatar

White people are….dam theres nothing good for them hehe

But the way I see it if you attach race,ethnics,etc…to a complient then to me your saying your good but only because your ____(insert blank)

To me thats insulting that something I may have worked for, put effort or whatever was largely part in due to something that probably had nothing to do with it…or better yet had nothing to do with it.

Just me.

Trillian's avatar

@Coting, I’m guessing that you’re British. The ~ symbol indicated that I was joking.

HTDC's avatar

Whether the stereotype is positive or negative is irrelevant. It’s still based on false assumptions.

kidkosmik's avatar

I watched “Up in the Air” last night. Good movie, enjoyable. There were some lines in there that I found very amusing.

Ryan Bingham: [on getting through airport security] Never get behind old people. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left. Bingo, Asians. They pack light, travel efficiently, and they have a thing for slip on shoes. Gotta love ‘em.

Natalie Keener: That’s racist.

Ryan Bingham: I’m like my mother, I stereotype. It’s faster.

Maybe if you keep it to yourself and not base your assumptions or decisions solely on stereotypes?

Coting's avatar

Oh sorry. I feel like a fool now. :)

Trillian's avatar

@Coting. No need for that. I can see that you’re new. You’ll get a feel for who has true vitriol and who doesn’t as you go along. You’ll also get to know that little symbols and mannerisms. Welcome to the collective.

Likeradar's avatar

I think that the idea that a group of people is a certain way based on the color of their skin or religion is negative. It doesn’t matter what the descriptive word is.

As a Jew, I feel equal pity at the ignorance of someone who says “Jews are good with money” as I do for someone who says “Jews have black blood.”

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It’s a mistake to assume that a group of people are one way or another.

mattbrowne's avatar

No, it can be a very good thing. For example in cross-cultural communication. Couple of years ago I organized a workshop which served both as an initial team building effort and a promotion of intercultural understanding. The participants were a group of mainly German and Indian IT professionals. I hired a facilitator who also was an expert in intercultural dialogue. One of her exercises was creating a list of positive examples about each others countries and have an open talk about the explanations. The lists were a mixture of facts and stereotypes. The exercise was very well received by the entire group. Good facilitation is important. There are some dangers attached.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I agree with @Tenpinmaster. As long as we keep in mind that by saying something like “the Japanese are good at maths” we are actually saying “the Japanese are often good at maths” or “the Japanese, in general, are good at maths” then I believe it is harmless.

Trillian's avatar

@mattbrowne. In the global marketplace cross cultural recognition, appreciation and understanding are paramount. The facilitator’s idea of positive stereotypes and facts are a great dialogue opener. This leads to communication, understanding, and good team building. She sounds like she knows her business.
And yes, there are dangers, but that’s true of any group, cross cultural or not. A good facilitator is always necessary. Groups don’t happen by themselves.

janbb's avatar

@Likeradar Also, it’s easy for so-called positive stereotypes to be turned to negatives. For example, “Jews are good with money” can be turned into “Jews are stingy bastards” or “Jews are running the country and should be eliminated” pretty quickly.

I think there is an inherent danger to any stereotyping – positive or negative. We all tend to do it somewhat in our own heads, but, like prejudicial thoughts, I think the tactic is to acknowledge the thought when you have it, realize its falseness and move on.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Trillian – Good intercultural facilitators are rare and expensive. But they are worth their money.

prude's avatar

I believe that all stereotyping is bad.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Any stereotyping is divisive. Implying that one group is good at something as a racial characteristic is nonsense. There are groups that place high value on certain characteristics, but it has little to do with race, nationality or religious beliefs. It is more socioeconomic than anything else.

daemonelson's avatar

@cprevite /agree

I’d say-ARGH @stranger_in_a_strange_land took my next point.

Well, shit.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@daemonelson I’ll grant you co-authorship :)

Jeruba's avatar

But—just to ask the question—if we don’t recognize any common characteristics at all, what makes them a group? How can we say there are any groups at all if they don’t share any traits? Is self-identifying as a group all it takes to make a group? Is it all about language and nothing but language? What is culture if it doesn’t have something to do with commonalities?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Jeruba Self-identifying, yes. But other-identifying based on color, nationality, gender orientation, religious affiliation, etc, no. It’s fine to have a certain pride in one’s cultural background, but not “uber alles”.

Jeruba's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land, I don’t understand your yes-and-no answer to a question that is open-ended.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Jeruba Sleep-deprivation is affecting my ability to express myself . I’ll try again later. Sorry.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Jeruba Sorry about the previous rambling. Stereotyping of all kinds is wrong. People are people. Characteristics are individual, not racial, national, gender, etc.(I’m trying to withdraw from Valium and lack of sleep is messing with my head)

Arisztid's avatar

There are a few kickers about “positive” stereotyping:

1) any members of the group being “positively” stereotyped are not good at whatever the stereotype is about, they are really going to get grief… much more than the rest of us would get.

2) if the member of the group being “positively” stereotyped does well at whatever it is, they are not going to get the kind of recognition and praise the rest of us get.

3) accompanying the “positive” stereotype of that group is the assumption that the rest of us are not as good at so and so.

The “Asians are good at math” is a classic one. “Blacks are great athletes” is another. My people are “good musicians.” As a child, I was kind of expected to be a good musician. I was but that had nothing to do with my ethnicity. Plenty of us suck at it.

“Positive” stereotypes are just as inaccurate as negative ones.

@stranger_in_a_strange_land I hope you get some rest.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Arisztid Thanks. The VA doc never told me that Valium was addictive.

Arisztid's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Now isn’t that special. Valium, along with other benzo, withdrawal can kill if it is not tapered slowly.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Arisztid I went from 40 mg a day for three months to zero in one day. Scared the shit out of me. He never warned me not to do that. I’m back on a reduced dose now, tapering off over three weeks. The ER doc finally explained it to me.

Jeruba's avatar

But then I still must ask: is there any such thng as a group, if they have no traits in common? What is a group?

Also, just to take an example from the thread (without endorsing it or denying it), is there not a significant difference between saying

“The Japanese are good at math”

(a statement about personal characteristics of members of the group, or a generality about the entire group—maybe meaning ‘on average’)

and “The Japanese value excellence in mathematics”

(which speaks of a culture, a cultural value, without committing any particular member of it to possessing the trait?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Jeruba A good way of stating it. Cultural values without the stereotyping +GA.

daemonelson's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Hmm….I suppose I can tolerate that :P

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