Friday, September 08, 2006

Schwarzenegger's Ethnic Commentary Caught on Tape

Schwarzenegger's Ethnic Commentary Caught on Tape - Washington Post

Stereotypes are a touchy subject for sure, but having them fall under the axe of political correctness exacerbates the problem. Like other taboos in our society they get touched on a lot in private, but people seldom ‘cop’ to them in public. California’s ‘Govenator’, Arnold Schwarzeneggar put his pumped-up foot in his mouth in a ‘good way’ on this one. While his descriptions are crude, at best, he is more or less accurate, as backed up by the self-described ‘hot-blooded’ Latina Assemblywoman, Bonnie Garcia. The only real question is what point Arnold was attempting to make with his assessment – but is this not generally the question with politicians?

Stereotypes come in two forms, naturally occurring and ideological. Natural stereotypes evolve over long periods of time as combinations of autostereotypes, products of in-groups, and heterostereotypes, products of out-groups. The in-groups are people exhibiting the stereotype attribute, while the out-groups are those witnesses to the stereotype. When in-group and out-group stereotyping matches, the ‘kernel of truth’ test is passed, giving life-blood to this valuable short cut in communication.

In contrast, when the stereotype is ideological, it is not really a stereotype at all, but rather an imposter, designed to trick us into some nefarious action. Racist stereotypes fall into this category as race is an arbitrary construct, but indeed, not all differences are arbitrary.

Society needs to get much better at understanding stereotypes, in order that we all benefit from what they accurately tell us, as well as to better protect ourselves from the imposters that do significant damage. But understanding will come only with foregoing our ‘knee-jerk’ reactions, removing the chips from our shoulders, and developing critical minds on the subject.

James C. Collier

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1 comment:

Rafael said...

Aaah, Americans and their political correctness! People, guess what: Arnold is right. I am a Latino and I can assure you: in our countries it is openly acknowledged (and with pride) how the Caribbean Basin culture (that includes Cuba and Puerto Rico) is significantly shaped by the African influence of its early colonial stages. All the "sabor" of the tropical music rythms we all enjoy so much (salsa, cumbia, merengue, you name it!) is rooted in African rythms. And yes, that culture also shaped the joyful, boisterous and optimistic demeanor of the Caribbeans ("caribeƱos") and their zest for life. Arnold made this comments exactly because he is European, i.e. more open-minded and less ingrained in the intellectual constraints Americans have imposed on themselves to project a misunderstood sense of equality. Equality is not that we all are the same: it is that we all have the right to be different and that is OK. This is not about stereotypes: it is about sociology and anthropology. It is about understanding how cultural differences are shaped, accepting it and celebrating it!