Richard Dyer

Richard Dyer's Stereotyping

Racists and Stereotypes

by Paolo Castillo

Richard Dyer shows how stereotyping is an oversimplification of a specific set of people or class according to their attributes, their characteristics and their ideas. Given the set of negative connotations attributed to a certain class, each member of that group is given the same preconceived ideas that are given to them in general. Most of the time, these groups are rejected simply because they are not envisaged as normal to those who oppress them and some of them do it unconsciously. Dyer gives an example on gay people and how they are portrayed in books and in films. He mentions that gay characters are often portrayed in demeaning and offensive roles. They are either the lesbian vampire or the sadistic queer or the predatory school mistress or the neurotic faggot. These images are unmistakably true when they show the gay community as a stereotype in contemporary time. He writes that these stereotypes belong outside the pale of normalcy established by the ruling class of society.

Stereotypes can also be based according to the color of the skin. This is especially seen in racism and an example would be the black people are seen as inferior to the white people from Europe and America. Looking back at history, the American imperialists took hold of the lands and more importantly the lives of the African people and justified their actions through the color of their skin. The black people were kept in lower socio-economic livelihoods and were oppressed without remorse. In 1844, Secretary of State John C. Calhoun argued for an extention of slavery because the African people were incapable of self-care and is bound to lunacy under the burden of freedom.

But today, it is not only the black people who are continually oppressed because of the stereotyping. Although Barrack Obama, an African-American, has been elected president of the White imperialists, the stereotyping according to one’s color is still evident. In the realm of comedic acts posted on the internet in the form of videos in contemporary time, stereotyping and racism go hand in hand that serve as punch lines and grand finales for stand up comedians and pranksters who post videos online. An example is a video from YouTube of a white racist who calls himself the Amazing Racist and what he does is run around playing pranks on people that connote prejudice. This video shows him in a Klu Klux Klan(KKK) outfit going into stores owned by African-Americans.

Although this may be seen as a funny prank to many, this kind of joke is offensive in the eyes of people who truly understand the history of the KKK. This group of ex-Confederate soldiers wanted to restore white supremacy after the American Civil War in 1865. This was in opposition to the grant of civil rights to Africans in their territory. This group became notorious as it grew exponentially and their methods ranged from arson, bombing, killing, lynching, and raping those who opposed their group. Given this brief historical background of the clan, pranks such as these are offensive especially for the victim and those who are directed to be insulted by this video. This can be seen as stereotyping through structure. The stereotype is based on past social-cultural experiences that are used in labeling certain groups as stereotypical. Based on the origin of African-Americans, they are placed in an outside group away from normalcy and kept there because of the past that both the whites and blacks shared.
The white supremacist belief that any racial color that is not white is inferior can be seen in his other videos. The following videos show the Amazing Racist of an Asian couple and Mexican workers.

These videos and all the other videos that are similar somehow depict the idea of Dyer that stereotypes are built in such a way that they are designed to be excluded by boundary maintenance. They are characteristically fixed and unalterable as compared to the social type that he discusses as a choice rather than a condemnation in stereotyping. The victims of this racist were condemned to being the victims of this act, they had no choice whether to partake in it or not. Simply because they were placed under the correct classification that the racist chose to make fun of, they became a part of the offensive joke. In the video with the Asian victims, although he met a Hawaiian couple in the restaurant, he still classified them as Asian because they are all the same in terms of color and the structure of their faces. In the succeeding video, he disgraces the Mexican workers by considering them as dirty animals and keeping them at the back of his newly cleaned truck. By putting his victim into these situations, he further reinforces the point of stereotyping through racism.

The racist on the other hand is a part of the established normalcy where this group attempts to fashion society in their own world-view, value-system, sensibility, and ideology, as explained by Dyer. He also says that they make their role appear natural and inevitable and in this way they establish hegemony. Dyer mentions the idea of ethnocentrism as a principal feature in the establishment of hegemony. Ethnocentrism is thinking in terms of one’s group and establishing this as the correct norm for everyone else. For the racist, he thinks that making fun of people according to their race would be an acceptable means of comedy. What’s bad is that he victimized real people who were just trying to live through the day. This can be considered as a part of the ethnocentric thinking where he thinks that his actions are acceptable and innocent because it was only a joke. But putting real people in certain stereotypical pranks and posting them online where anyone has access to is neither innocent nor acceptable.

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