In the US we have a lot of stereotypes of a lot of different groups, mostly with negative stigmas attached to them. The stereotypes I’m going to focus on are stereotypes of other countries and cultures that the US has had contact with inside the US. What I think is the most interesting is how a cultural difference from a country outside the US gets produced in the US due to our high immigrant population. Then after it is made in the US it is applied to the country of origin. These stereotypes are not only at play within our borders but globally and that is detrimental not only to the immigrants who come here looking for safety and refuge but also to the people who live in the country of origin and are subject to the same sort of myths.
A cultural and racial stereotype of East Asian people is that they are seen as quiet, calculating and cold. Not only that but they are submissive and ‘want to be dominated.’ Men especially are seen as effeminate with ‘small penises.’ But how did this stereotype come to be? In some countries in East Asia (mainly China and Japan) rather than act over emotionally and irrationally when someone takes advantage of you or mocks you outright, it’s seen as morally righteous to be still and have patience and pick your battles. That shows that you’re an adult and not childish. But in the US it’s seen as very important to have strong opinions and fight for them. If you don’t then you’re a doormat, and that’s a cultural difference we have between the US and East Asia. Because of this cultural difference and the fact that Chinese American immigrants could only take on ‘feminine’ jobs such as opening Laundromats and restaurants, the quiet submissive stereotypes of Asian women and men started. Not only did these stereotypes perpetuate in the US even till today but they also recycle back to the countries of origin. So when we see Asian American people they get targeted as not belonging here and get told to ‘go back to their country.’ Not only that but when Americans see actual ancient Japanese art from Japan they see it through their filtered lens of Asian American stereotypes rather than seeing it for what it is, wholly Japanese.
These differences should be accepted and respected but instead people from the US felt threatened by this ‘yellow peril’ and enacted laws so that East Asian and south east Asian people couldn’t migrate ‘in hoards’ and if they could then they couldn’t become a citizen or bring their wives to start a future here. The US though always parading itself as the protector of the world could really want nothing more than not deal with the immigrants they say they want.
Another stereotype that is prevalent is that people from Latin America and Spain are ‘lazy’ because in Spain it’s common to have a break during the middle of the day called a ‘siesta.’ Thus, people in the US think that all people who emigrate from Latin America to the US are lazy and don’t work when in reality Spain and Latin America couldn’t be more different. They also hypersexualize Latin Americans because they’re seen as the sexual other with deviant sexual ways like going to nude beaches or wearing smaller bathing suits and underwear. This is the most degrading stereotype to ethnic and racial minorities in the US because it dehumanizes us to animals when in reality they’re no different than you or me.
So next time, think twice before judging another culture with your US cultural stereotype goggles on. Try to filter your experiences so that the true nature of a country shows without your cultural influence.
23 year old English major and ESL Teacher. Currently living in Fortaleza, Brazil. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.