I claim that I hate stereotyping, though I catch myself doing it at times. Frankly speaking, I do get nervous when I pass a couple of black teenagers while going for my walk. And to strengthen my point, once I was teased by a 5 year old and was afraid to retaliate as I was not sure of the protocol, especially when it comes to black kids. It could be interpreted as racism just to admonish the kid… Would the kid have teased me if I were a white woman? Would a white kid have teased me? Will it be considered racist if I shout at the kid? With all these thoughts, I just walked and made sure I ignore him and his friends, just a bunch of 5 yr olds.
A couple of months after joining linear, an engineer from the Singapore plant visited us for some training on a particular tester, of which I was supposed to be an expert and was hired for the same reason. I was sitting at a station debugging some board, when this guy walks over to me and asks about some operator setup. Firstly, I was new to the place and had no clue about what he was asking and secondly, I was not an operator. I looked at him and said that he needs to ask that question to an operator. He just blurted out, “Oh! I thought you were an operator”. Apparently, in Singapore, lots of srilankan and Indian women are operators and he had never seen a female test engineer till then. Go figure!! That was just the beginning. I have been mistaken for an operator a few times ever since just because I am female and it is very rare to find women in my area of expertise. I tend to laugh it off or give some smart-aleck retort, which usually forces them to laugh or blush.
If you watch sitcoms, you can see the Indian stereotyping. Any sitcom based in New York such as “How I met your mother” will see an Indian taxi driver, which can be quite annoying. But a sitcom based in CAL will usually have an Indian doctor or an Indian scientist,aka Raj from “The Big Bang Theory”. I don’t mind the Indian accent though as I think almost 95% of Indians have their Indian-American accent, in slightly different flavors. When watching discovery channel, it looks like we have snake charmers in every nook and corner of India. People are too busy catching snakes for dinner, to be had along with Monkey Brains(thanks to Indiana Jones) while making phone calls to American customers, with a cow standing just outside the door( Have you seen the movie “Outsourced”?)..Just yesterday, a colleague was talking about catching snakes to explain to me about something as if talking about snakes will make me understand it better and no, I am not making this up. When a junior Indian guy joined our team, which was a rarity in our firm, people came up to me and seriously asked if he was my brother, ‘coz we look alike you see..:-) I could go on and on..
Talking about the upcoming elections, I am yet to see a single Indian who supports the republican govt. Is it just because of Bush and the Iraq war or is it just because we like to be democrats? Most of the Indians in the bay area will have an increase in tax cut if Obama gets elected. He has given the limit as 250K. Obama always talks about the middle class, well, I can guarantee you that most of the Indian engineers , especially with a two-income household are not middleclass. The average salary for a middle class family in SanJose is 70K. Is it because we associate Democracy with freedom back home , that we like to vote for a democrat , if we were citizens? Yes, Bush can be hated and you can be against the war, but are we stereotyping here?
Be it race, gender, country of origin , government , I think our brain has some association for certain words , which triggers a set of actions. Maybe, that is stereotyping and it may not be easy not to.
Have you ever been stereotyped or have you found yourself stereotyping someone when it was otherwise?