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Alex Pena Mr. ConklinU.S. History 222 December, 2017Stereotypes in Modern SocietyOver the course of history, humans have developed presumptions of people from different kinds of backgrounds. This is what is called a stereotype, which is defined as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing” (Dictionary.Com). Stereotypes in of themselves are not necessarily wrong, as they give a general description of a type of person. Stereotypes become apparent when people act upon them and assume that they are for certain. One may ask, how have people come to formulate these presumptions of a group of people? That answer lies in the media. People put their own personal biases in the media they create, which in turn impacts the younger generation and the mindsets they develop.The way people see race is largely impacted by what they see in the media. This is because media and film are heavily influenced by stereotypes, so people put their stereotypical thoughts of race, for instance, into the programs they create. One group affected by the stereotypes imposed on them by the media is African Americans. Constantly throughout the course of television history, black people have been portrayed as criminals, drug addicts, sex offenders, and thugs. The first piece of media to drive these images into people’s minds was the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, which featured extremely racist and stereotypical images of black people. Directed by D.W. Griffith, he portrayed the African Americans in the film as “heathens, as unworthy of being free, as uncivilized, as primarily concerned with passing laws so they could marry white women and prey on them” ( The fact that Birth of a Nation was the first widely acclaimed film makes it even more jarring how how people found the movie acceptable and not unsettling at all. The very first film in the history of the movie industry was extremely racist, biased, and stereotypical. For example, a clip from Birth of a Nation displays a group of African American men in congress. The men are behaving very poorly, as there is one man who takes out a bottle of alcohol from which he was hiding in his book and takes a swig. Another scene has an African American man eating what appears to be a chicken leg, which is a common stereotype among black people that they enjoy fried chicken. Movies like Birth of a Nation instill these negative images in the public’s minds, such as being uneducated, uncivil, and overall dangerous people. African American stereotyping is not just in television, however, as it is even evident in video games. Games such as Grand Theft Auto display racial profiling very clearly. In the latest installment of the series, Grand Theft Auto 5, a Youtube Channel called The Game Theorists tested the game to see if the police force were indeed racist. They set up an experiment where the three main characters, Michael, a white man, Trevor, a white man but also a drug addict, and Franklin, an African American, would go up to the cops in their cars and honk the horn at the police and see if anything out of the ordinary would happen. The Game Theorists found that “Franklin was indeed the character that got harassed or attacked the most times by the cops” (Patricia Hernandez). This is eye opening since stereotypes of African Americans are present in video games, which are one the top sources of entertainment for people in the United States. Something that is so easily accessible in the U.S. is filled with stereotypical bias and beliefs. That is why stereotypes are still so prominent in society today, because everywhere all around North America one can see the stereotypes of groups of people such as African Americans.The gay community also falls victim to stereotypical ideas from the media in the United States. Just like with race, once again stereotypes are creeping into the media. For instance, television shows have this fixed image of gay men, where they are seen as outrageous and flamboyant. A stark example of this is from the show Will and Grace, where character Jack is portrayed as a stereotypical homsexual man. He is shown to be loud and have an over exaggerated personality. These stereotypes exist in America because being gay has always been taboo in this country for a long time. Homosexuality is often criticized because there is believed to be a “natural law” regarding sexual orientation. Natural law was first proposed by Plato, where in his book The Republic Book 1 he writes “opposite-sex sex acts cause pleasure by nature, while same-sex sexuality is unnatural” (Brent Pickett). Plato’s argument was that humans are supposed to be straight, and by being gay that person is breaking an unspoken, natural law. Plato’s ideas still influence people’s mindsets today, as there are many people not just in the United States, but all across the globe that support the idea that being straight is right and gay is wrong. That is the reason why the media have stereotypical gays on their shows, because, in a way, they are trying to get a point across that the viewer will end up being the same as the annoying and flamboyant character if they “choose” to be homosexual. While taboo of homosexuality goes all the way back to the days of Plato, it has also been something that goes in hand with religion. The way people feel about homosexual people can and is affected greatly by religion, especially in Christianity. People often infer from the teachings of the bible that “homosexuals are bad, diseased, perverse, sinful, other, and inferior” (“Abomination- Life as a Bible Belt Gay). Since there are some people who are very religious and strictly follow what is said in the Bible, then it is unsurprising that they would stereotype gays in a negative way. If religious people could preach the positive parts of the bible, such as being accepting of everyone, than perhaps the issue regarding homosexuality and religion could be ended. Overall, is a controversial topic in the media due to the stereotypes imposed on homosexual individuals.Muslims are another group of people that are discriminated from the media. Often labeled as terrorists, sex offenders, and evil, Muslims have suffered by these stereotypes that have been put on them. Different to African Americans, who have been experiencing hate and stereotyping for a prolonged amount of time in the States, the hate and racism towards Muslims raised substantially after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Statistics have proven that “Anti-Muslim hate crimes approximately five times more frequent than they were before 2001” (Aliyah Frumin). In recent years, the hate and stereotyping of Muslims have gotten severely worse. This year alone has been rough for Muslims, due to multiple incidents in “Europe and the shootings the San Bernadino shootings last December carried out by a Muslim husband and wife” (Hope and Despair: Being Muslim in America After 9/11). All these events regarding Muslims lead to perhaps the greatest act of discrimination toward Muslims, as earlier this year President Donald Trump exercised a “Muslim ban”. Donald Trump enforced the ban for a few months, not allowing any Muslims from other countries entry into the United States. While there have been extreme Muslims that make the whole religion look like dangerous people, the media also create a fixed, false image of all Muslim people. For example, Sayid Jarrah in the television show Lost is a very stereotypical influenced character of the people of Islam. Jarrah, also the only muslim character on the show, is displayed as an Iraqi Republican Guard and often uses torture to extract information from prisoners throughout the series. Both the media and the government are creating an incorrect image of the muslim people due to stereotypical portrayals on television shows and enforcing discrimination toward the people through bans. It is important to break down these stereotypes of muslims because only a very small percent of them are actually extremists, while the rest of them are just people trying to survive and make a living like the rest of the citizens living in the United States.Why does the media more often than not instill these stereotypical images of African Americans into their programs? That answer is quite simple actually. The people behind the scenes, the creators of the media are putting their own personal biases and beliefs about certain groups of people into their content, while not even realizing it. This is what can be known as an implicit bias, which is defined as attitudes or stereotypes that affect people’s understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. In that case, this means the creators in mainstream media are unconsciously putting their own views on African Americans into their content. Unfortunately, many Americans today still believe black people are dangerous and inadequate. For example, a study done at Marquette University and Texas Christian University found that landlords typically have an implicit bias toward white sounding names. They found that the landlords responded 6.3 percent more frequently to white names than black names. When regarding the lower class, though, the percent becomes even more glaring. Landlords responded to poor white applicants 17.5 percent more often than black applicants. This just proves how much power the media has to influence everyday people like those landlords, how they unconsciously put negative thoughts into the brains of civilians. However, this is a huge problem for the younger generation because children will learn from the shows they watch to view African Americans as criminals. If the media does not change their stereotypical beliefs in their content, there will forever be this cycle of the older generation passing down their false views of black people to the younger generation. One question ¬†after all of this discussion about stereotypes and implicit bias still remains: where do they come from? According to Gray Matter of the New York Times, “Implicit Bias is grounded in a basic human tendency to divide the social world into groups” (Gray Matter). Most people would believe that implicit bias revolves solely around racial bigotry, but bias is actually a human defense mechanism in a sort of way. In the words of Gray Matter, implicit bias is quite frankly “us versus them”, which is similar to that of a fan of a sports team. This does not necessarily justify implicit bias, rather that it gives a reason as to why they exist. Studies have shown that implicit bias can be conquered, however. Results from a series of experiments were published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology at the New York Times. A few hundred volunteers participated in an online game that was about giving and receiving money, as well as creating a situation where the participants saw that one player was stealing another player’s money. There were also volunteers to punish the thief by confiscating all of their money. The experiments were manipulated, however, to make it seem like the thief appeared to be a member of the same team as the punisher or a different one. For example, in one experiment football fans were led to believe the thief was a supporter of the same team or rival team. In another, they were told that the thief was a citizen of their country or a different one. The experiment found that people were biased in their punishment decisions. The punisher was much more harsh towards players of a different team, also being more forgiving towards players of their own team. Once the punisher has a chance to reflect on their decision, however, they suddenly became unbiased, handing out equal and fair punishments to everyone. This experiment shines some light and gives hope that people can, in fact, overcome their own implicit biases. Overcoming one’s implicit bias is crucial in the breaking down of stereotypes, as implicit bias and stereotypes are one in the same. Stereotypes and implicit bias have been to issues that the a United States still deal with today. The media has been a huge contributor in adding fuel to stereotypes, especially towards African Americans, homosexuals, and Muslims. The biases from people who create media impact these three categories because they are letting their own implicit biases creep into their work, which also has an impact on the younger generation. There will always be a cycle of the older generation developing the mindsets of the young to give in to the stereotypes and biases against people who are labelled “different”, which is why society has to continue to fight to break down stereotypes and overcome implicit bias.Works CitedCunningham, Vinson. “”The Birth of a Nation” Isn’t Worth Defending.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 19 June 2017.Frumin, Aliyah, et al. “Hope and Despair: Being Muslim in America After 9/11.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 11 Sept. 2016.Hernandez, Patricia. “Someone Actually Tried Testing Out If GTA V Cops Are ‘Racist’.” Kotaku,, 13 Mar. 2015.Laroche, Nick. Skype Interview. 10 Nov 2017.Moayedzadeh Rad, Jasmine. Skype Interview. 21 Dec 2017.Phillips, Cameron. Skype Interview. 10 Nov 2017.Pickett, Brent. “Homosexuality.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 6 Aug. 2002.”ProjectImplicit.” Education,”ProjectImplicit.” Take a Test,, NPR. “100 Years Later, What’s The Legacy Of ‘Birth Of A Nation’?” NPR, NPR, 8 Feb. “Understanding Implicit Bias.” Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Yudkin, Daniel A., and Jay Van Bavel. “The Roots of Implicit Bias.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Dec 2016.