Why we need to face the ongoing, yet hidden, issue that is self stereotyping

Self-stereotyping is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed. It is a hidden phenomenon with numerous effects on how individuals behave in society. Unfortunately for us, the Azusa Pacific campus is not excluded from this issue. 

In fact, you might be facing this issue without knowing it. To check, ask yourself if you have ever uttered some of the following sentences:

“I am too scared to talk in class.”

“I feel like I am the only Latino in the room.” 

“I do not like when we only cover books that talk about the bad conditions of the black communities. I want people to know that there is another side of that reality as well.”

“I am worried about people making a judgment because I’m from the Middle East.”

These are all statements from current APU students expressing their, and my, personal fears while going about everyday life. 

The talk about racism and stereotypes governs our daily conversations. It is an issue that is engraved in our society to a point where we cannot help but not talk about it. 

This phenomenon known as “self-stereotyping” is defined by Joachim Krueger, Ph.D., in Psychology Today as the process where individuals make a correlation between the characteristics of the group they belong to and their identity. 

In more simple terms, self-stereotyping happens when we define who we are based on the group we belong to and we let this identity affect how active we are in society.

The sentences mentioned above are great examples of this phenomenon. If you noticed, there is a common theme strung throughout the quotes in that none of them show a biased opinion toward a certain group. Rather they are formed in the voice of these minorities against their own self. 

In the race-focused culture that we live in, we tend to form our own opinion of ourselves based on what ethnicity we belong to. According to an article in the Social Construct Journal, we carry this identity and we use it as a cover, or blanket, to stop participating in class or being active in society out of fear of being judged based on our race. 

This issue affects society at large, and our small community at APU.

The first time I noticed self-stereotyping was at a meeting for the Azusa scholars, a program geared toward helping students who come from Azusa Unified School District. 

Being the only non-Latinx person in the program, and the only one who had lived in the U.S. for just a few years, I sat and listened to their experiences silently. I heard about their fear of talking in class and interacting with people because of their unconscious feeling that everyone will look at them differently because they come from colored communities.

I was surprised to hear the same from different people in many classes later on. The people I talked to did not belong to any one specific ethnic group, but were from all different backgrounds. 

Each had a fear of expressing themselves because they believed they would be judged based on how they look. 

The problem with self-stereotyping is that it is a loss of faith in yourself and of your identity. We feel less confident in who we are and isolate ourselves from the public. We hide in groups that look like us because we are afraid of expressing ourselves in front of people who look different from us. 

Self-stereotyping often leads to misinterpreting situations and reacting confrontationally when interacting with individuals from outside the group people identify themselves with.

In a recent leadership meeting I attended, a speaker complained about compliments about her hair looking beautiful. She considered these comments to be racist, thinking people meant that they did not expect for her typical African-American hair to look good.

This incident made me see how self-stereotyping plays a role in why some racial conflicts persist. 

This is not to say racial and sexual injustices don’t happen, they do, but rather to expand the definition of stereotyping to include our own treatment and views toward ourselves as another form of stereotyping as well.

Whether we are facing stereotypes through people around us or we are stereotyping ourselves, the only way to solve this is by interacting more with people around us and changing their vision about who we are through love and respect. It is time to get out from underneath our blankets and interact with the world around us, fearless of others opinions of who we are, or we will never be able to break this wall that we built among each other.