The power and danger of stereotyping at USD

By Bianca Hernandez

When people see someone, they immediately try to imagine the kind of person he or she is. The problem with this is appearances are a very shallow and deceitful way of getting to know someone. USD’s students are stereotyped as known to have it all: looks, money and brains.

This sort of immediate stereotyping leaves a lasting effect on many students. Most people share a belief that the majority of our student population comes from a wealthier background, are generally Caucasian and that the University has no racial diversity.

To make it appear more light-hearted, the University is often described with catchy acronyms such as University of Spoiled Daughters, University of Spoiled Drivers and University of Surfer Dudes. Not all students fit the stereotype of “Spoiled Daughters” and “Surfer Dudes”. Those are the only three that are commonly known on the USD campus; there are countless stereotypes many people come up with just by someone’s skin color, race, etc.

Sabrina Keene, writer and psychology professor defines stereotyping as “the application of an individual’s own thoughts, beliefs, and expectations onto other individuals without first obtaining factual knowledge about the individual(s).”

Stereotypes provide a way to assess or judge others by taking in their appearance. Stereotyping can create many social identities that are not accurate about a person. People have nothing to base these assessments on outside of their preconceived notions of a given person or group.

The students who have wealth are not afraid to show it off; the people who do not have as much feel like it’s a necessity. Freshman Jessica Reyes feels pressured to fit in with the wealthy stereotype, to have the expensive car, different brands of clothing and to be the most intelligent in the class in order to fit USD’s common stereotype. Since Reyes felt excluded and wanted to fit in, she aggressively conformed. Reyes shared that she has never fit into the common stereotype at the University of Spoiled Daughters, she was stereotyped as “The nerd, the know it all, the goody-good.” Typically, individuals who are quick to make judgments about a certain group base their statements on opinions and surface appearance instead of facts. The stereotypes that USD is known for do not necessarily define each student. In fact, they largely underestimate the varieties of people this school holds.

Stereotypes are attached to negative connotations which erase the true identity that an individual has. DiversityInc. CEO and Column writer Luke Visconti found that “Even stereotypes that might seem somewhat positive—the ‘studious Asian,’ for example—end up being self limiting: ‘studious but not leadership material.’”

Now in US popular media people often get different ideas of stereotypes from television shows and movies. The media has poorly informed us about these false impressions and the outcome of this lack of information is ignorance. The best defense against ignorance is education: possessing the truth can defend against prejudice and common stereotypes in today’s society.

Many stereotypes can affect the self-perception and behavior of the person who is being judged. Keene writes that “stereotypes can lead an individual to low self-esteem, mental breakdowns, depression, and other lows.”

For many students social identity is important, engaging stereotypes will almost always cause more harm than good. A way stereotyping harms students is the way their attitude changes. PsychCentral news editor Rick Nauert explains the way in which prejudice can impact future decisions.

“People are more likely to be aggressive after they’ve faced prejudice in a given situation,” Nauert writes. “They are more likely to exhibit a lack of self-control. They have trouble making good, rational decisions. And they are more likely to overindulge on unhealthy foods.”

These identity threats play an important role in society’s problems, such as race, social class and gender.

Aaron King, a writer for the Journal of Student Affairs at New York University found “students who received information designed to lower their self-esteem cheated at an assigned task more often than those who received high self-esteem information.”

This demonstrated that students are influenced by peers and can be surrounded by negative effects.

If we learn to define people outside of their pre-assigned stereotype, we can help to bring about a fall of the stereotypes that plague today’s society. As C.JoyBell C. says “We are all equal in the fact that we are all different.” The best way to lessen the impact of stereotypes, and eventually get rid of them completely, is to first rid yourself of your own. This small difference will not only have an impact on your life, it might even improve someone else’s. It could even improve our school.