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Stereotypes and Stereotyping

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Racial Labeling and Stereotypes

I distinctly remember my first encounter with the mysterious box, I slumped in my desk, sullenly listening to wiry little Mrs. Force, my third grade teacher, read the long, meticulous list of do's and don'ts that always accompany standardized tests. The new box blended in quietly with the others at first: name, address, social security number. Yet there it was, the box marked race in vile green capital letters. Below were choices, concise words to supposedly sum up an important aspect of one's self. "Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, or other" I read to myself. Later, of course, as test writers struggled painstakingly to be politically correct, the options changed. The choices became "African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic-American (or perhaps even Mexican-American), Asian-American, and Native American. Only "other" remained unaltered. It was the tiny oval next to "other" that fascinated me. How could you tell if a person was "other"? I scanned the room, filled with skin tones varying greatly in hue from a subtle glow of peach to a ri...

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...dy else. That doesn't make me less of an individual. I don't strive to "blend in." An individual is made up of a personality, ideas, emotions, and a sense of identity independent of the race concept. We live in a nation, and in fact a world, of "others." Unfortunately, it is also a world filled with stereotypes that must be carefully and completely dismantled one idea at a time. For ten years now I have proudly battled misconceptions in the race box, armed only with my trusty number two and convictions of a metal much stronger than graphite.

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