by Kevin Chu
This article addresses peoples’ misconceptions about other groups of people.
|On September 11, 2001, Muslim extremists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, propagating a wave of terror through America. Initial fear and mourning gave way to the ignorant beating Muslim Americans and telling them to “Go back to your country.” Americans directed their vile attitudes to unrelated scapegoats just because they practiced the same religion as the terrorists. The ignorant failed to recognize that the attackers were extremists whose views did not represent those of other Muslims. Stereotypes—some leading to violence—have become ubiquitous. In a world plagued by genocide and war, we all need to understand each other to solve our problems.
Growing up, I adopted a keen awareness and sensitivity towards other cultures. My father’s side of the family is Chinese while my mother’s is Japanese and Caucasian. Though my family is racially diverse, everyone respects each other and maintains harmonious relationships. When I entered high school, I encountered people of various descents. Iranian students bonded with Koreans, Indians, and Filipinos and conversed about their interests. Apart from diverse relationships, students learned about other cultures during International Day, an annual event during which students educated their peers about different countries. International Day encouraged students to celebrate cultural diversity rather than disparage others for their differences. The increased awareness resulted in fewer racial quarrels and enhanced students’ academic performance.
Another way to increase cultural awareness is to travel internationally. If Americans visit Islamic countries, they observe reverent Muslims praying several times per day, fasting, and volunteering for the community. When I traveled outside of the U.S. for the first time, I was like a child learning to read. Now I have traveled to fourteen countries and have experienced the lives of foreigners. My trips to France taught me that contrary to the stereotype of rude French people, some are incredibly kind. In short, there are nice people and narcissistic people everywhere. Though this stereotype is relatively minor compared to Americans’ perception of Muslims, it is still offensive. International travel exposes one a foreign culture, which is critical in eliminating partial judgments.
Stereotypes are not exclusively limited to the present. Perhaps the most egregious violation of human rights was the Holocaust, which resulted from a misled belief in Aryan superiority. Millions of Jews perished, and Europe descended into turmoil and economic hardship. Logically, people should learn from their mistakes, but is this horrific crime solely of the past? Racial profiling and immigration laws undermine the progress in establishing world peace and are eerily reminiscent of the beginning of Nazism. What will become of this world if we continue to subject others to hatred?
Most historical events—including the displacement of Native Americans and internment of Japanese Americans—result from biased preconceptions of other cultures and have been ethically devastating. This behavior is still prevalent in today’s imperfect world—a clear indication that humanity needs to eliminate its biased attitudes toward others. Stereotypes will not disappear overnight, but they will diminish when each individual gains an increased awareness of other cultures. However, if we eradicate cultural biases sooner, we will be able to focus on other critical matters.