Discrimination is such an intrinsic concept that we don't even notice it sometimes. It isn't always the bullying in the playground the media portrays on the big screen. Sometimes it's the off-handed, generalized comments or the advice our family and friends bring up while watching TV or even the people sitting around you on a bus. There are so many stereotypes I've heard of, some of which target certain races, nationalities and sexualities. For example, Black people are often shown as less intelligent than their white counterparts in the media, while Asians and Indians always excel in math or computer science and Americans are loud and insensitive. I need not list all the stereotypes because we’ve heard about them enough on social media and in society.
I didn't make a conscious effort to learn or believe the generalized statements we hear about people of certain races, sexualities or religions, but they were always there at the back of my head. When you keep on hearing the jarring scratch of a record player, it rings in your mind even when it stops. They always left a nasty taste in my mouth, but as they were accepted by the public, I thought such stereotypes were normal and I was just being overly sensitive, like I tend to be.
But I've met so many people in my life, heck even friends and family who definitely do not fill the mould. I also owe it to social media.
I have a Muslim friend who I discuss anime with on Twitter and dump all my dumb ideas. There's a British artist on Tumblr I'm friends with and she's one of the sweetest souls I've met. Black people around the world receive their PHDs and make phenomenal discoveries. In my Indian school, there are plenty of students who still struggle with basic mathematics, like profit and loss.
It was a gradual process. At first, these stereotypes were nagging at the back of my mind, but by relating and chatting with my friends, I learnt that they are nothing, but hollow, outdated ideas. And we don't have any obligation to follow them.
Standards are sometimes standards you want to fulfill. Even now that I realized how toxic and inaccurate these stereotypes are, they sometimes peck at my mind, leaving a sour taste on my tongue. That’s the thing about generational poison, even if you sweep it out of your system, it still pricks your mind like a bitter, insistent migraine.
To be honest, as a girl, with Indian parents, born in America, I felt inadequate. I didn't feel like I was exactly American or Indian. I was always quiet, sensitive and introverted, the opposite of what people expected an American to be. And at the same time, I couldn't be classified as Indian either. Math is a literal nightmare to me. I hate math with more passion than Mozart loved music. Not only that, but I'm hopeless with technology. It once took me two solid hours to download a few files for school or upload an artwork I did onto my social media.
But after meeting others, I learnt that it doesn’t make me less Indian or American if I can’t do these things. No one, not even those who instill and promote these stereotypes can fit into them. It’s high time we put our foot down and bring an end to these tasteless, outdated statements. Of course, stopping stereotypes is not going to be a piece of cake, but as they say; ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’
I think that it’s up to us to take the initiative to re-educate ourselves and the people around us about how harmful stereotypes are and the ludicracy of these standards. Engaging seminars, pamphlets, movies should be shown to the general public of all ages and genders. We should also promote others to socialize with those from other races on common topics or discussions like sports, cooking, movies, books, and art. If there’s one thing that brings people together, it’s shared interests. By communicating with different people and forming close bonds with them, we will learn how truly inaccurate these stereotypes are.