When many Americans think about people in the Middle East, they create stereotypes based on what they think they know. Believe it or not, people in the Middle East do the same with Americans. We all have our own stereotypes about each other, so I’m going to create a list from both points of view to help break these stereotypes. Keep in mind that none of these are actually true.
Stereotypes about the Middle East:
“Arab” and “Muslim” refer to the same people. There are actually more than one billion Muslims in the world, yet only 15 percent of them are Arab.
Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all fundamentally different. In reality, they are all a monotheistic religion, meaning they all believe in one God.
The Middle East is just a big desert with a lot of camels. More people in the Middle East actually live in fishing villages and fertile plains than in a desert.
Muslims are all foreigners who cannot adapt to Western societies. Muslims live normal lives throughout the world and they have a long history in America.
Stereotypes about America:
All Americans are rich. Although this is portrayed on TV, many Americans do not live this lifestyle. There are multiple socioeconomic levels at which Americans live.
Americans have no family values. Although our values may be different than those in the Middle East, we still have our own values of what family life should be like.
All Americans have no morals and all American women are promiscuous. These characterizations, shown on TV and in movies, are not the norm and are not the common characteristics of American women.
Women are oppressed in the US. Yet again, American culture is portrayed inaccurately in the media. Women are given the same rights as men and it is becoming more and more common for men and women to have the same roles in the workforce.
One TED Talk that I particularly enjoy is “Did You Hear the One About the Iranian-American?” Maz Jobrani, the speaker in this video, travels around America and the Middle East attempting to break stereotypes through comedy. Sometimes, being blunt and creating jokes about the stereotypes you’re receiving can help others realize how wrong their stereotypes are in the first place. There are many other comedians around the world with the same goal as Maz.
What we think we see is much different than we actually see. It’s important to recognize what we view as a stereotype versus what is actually true about another culture. It’s also important to understand the stereotypes made about us. Creating change and knowledge begins when you understand both of these things and have a drive to make a difference. What stereotypes do you have? What shocks you about the stereotypes about you? Most importantly, what are you going to do to stop these stereotypes from being misconceived as true?