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Identifying and Dismantling Race-Based Stereotypes and Myths


Race-based stereotypes and myths pose a great threat to racial equality. That’s because racial stereotypes and myths can lead to prejudice and hatred, which, in turn, lead to discrimination against entire ethnic groups. The problem is that the individuals who make up racial groups are so unique that no generalization can capture who they are. In short, race-based stereotypes are dehumanizing. To deconstruct stereotypes, it’s important to know how they work, identify the most common ones and understand which behaviors contribute to ethnic stereotyping. Racism won’t go away until the racial myths that fuel it do. 


What Is a Stereotype

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What is a stereotype? Stereotypes are qualities assigned to groups of people related to their race, nationality and sexual orientation, to name a few. There are negative race-based stereotypes and positive race-based stereotypes. But because they generalize groups of people in manners that lead to discrimination and ignore the diversity within groups, stereotypes should be avoided. Instead, judge individuals based on your personal experiences with them and not on how you believe people from their ethnic group behave. 


Race-Based Stereotypes in Food Branding

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Want to know what some of the oldest race-based stereotypes in the U.S. are? Take a look at some of the products in your kitchen. Racial stereotypes and myths have long been used in food advertising to market everything from rice, pancakes and bananas. Do any of the items in your cupboards promote racial stereotypes? The list of items below may change your mind about what constitutes a racist food product.


Racially Offensive Costumes

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Once upon a time, Halloween costumes were simple. Witches, princesses and ghosts surfaced as the most popular get-ups. Not so anymore. In recent decades, the public has taken a fancy to costumes that make a statement. Unfortunately, these costumes sometimes promote ethnic stereotypes and race-based myths. So, if you’re thinking about dressing up as an Indian, a Gypsy or a Geisha for Halloween or another event, you might want to reconsider. Avoid racially offensive costumes.

Five Common Stereotypes About Africa

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Despite growing interest in Africa around the globe, racial stereotypes about it persist. Why? Many people continue to think of Africa as one huge country where everyone is the same, despite the fact that it is a huge continent. Do you harbor any stereotypes about Africa or Africans? The major racial myths about Africa concern its vegetation, economic struggles and the kind of people who live there.

Five Myths About Multiracial People

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An increasing number of Americans identify as multiracial, but myths about mixed-race people persist. Although mixed-race people have existed in the U.S. ever since the first Europeans to step foot in North America encountered the indigenous peoples who already lived here, one major stereotype about multiracial people is that they're novelties in the United States. Know any other misconceptions about mixed people? Consult this list to find out.

Tragic Mulatto Myth

A century ago, no one would've guessed that the United States would have a biracial president. At that time, many people believed that mixed-race people were destined to lead tragic lives, fitting into neither the black world nor the white one. The tragic mulatto myth, as it's known, served as a cautionary tale to whites and blacks who dared to love across the color line. In actuality, countless mixed-race people have gone on to lead happy and productive lives, proving the tragic mulatto myth false.
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