Students should avoid generalizing ethnicities into stereotypical caricatures and understand that people are comprised of more than their last names and skin colors.
I am Mexican. Yes, I like tacos. And yes, on occasion, my friends and I will ride around town with a Tejano song blaring from the radio. But none of that says anything about Mexican culture in general. These are personal preferences. Somehow, when my last name is revealed, people suddenly think it is okay to make connections between me and whatever stereotypical crap they have seen on television. Just because I am Mexican and like some stereotypical Mexican things does not mean I ride to campus on a donkey wearing a sombrero and a zarape.
Students need to realize that generalizing a person based on his or her culture is often going to come across as ignorant and disrespectful. Mexican stereotypes, for example, are rarely accurate. Stereotypes in general are mostly offensive, and students should understand by now that a person’s identity goes beyond skin color and last name.
Aside from my short height and my accent that becomes apparent whenever I speak quickly, there is no real distinguishing characteristic about me that screams “Mexican.” Before anyone knows about my heritage, I am just another student walking in The Quad. When someone hears I am Mexican or hail from South Texas, however, it is as if a mariachi has suddenly started playing behind me. For many, after my heritage is revealed, I become just another stereotype.
More often than not, stereotypes are untrue. Aside from the complete inaccuracy, generalizing a group of people is very offensive. No one wants to be told who he or she is by someone else. While it may be true that a person’s identity is influenced by culture and heritage, everyone is different.
Generalizing ethnicities and defining someone’s culture by stereotypes is terribly insulting. No one wants to be told how to act by an outsider. Because I come from South Texas and I have a Hispanic last name, people tend to assume I speak Spanish and eat spicy food. Sorry to break the news, but I speak Spanglish at best, and sometimes, even barbeque sauce is too hot for me.
I am who I am, just like other people are who they are. Just because someone does not meet the stereotypical expectations of his or her culture does not make them any less Mexican, German or any other heritage.
Do not get me wrong—I love my culture and my background. It becomes more and more important to me the longer I am away from home. But my culture and my involvement in it do not give anyone the right to think that I am some kind of at-risk student as Mexicans are often portrayed. I grew up in a nice home with supportive parents. I took karate lessons and was editor of my high school yearbook. I am sorry if these attributes do not fit the idea of the typical Mexican female that has been created by the media.
Stereotypes are insulting and false and should by no means be utilized when interacting with someone of another culture.