A girl walks down the halls of her high school alone, with ear buds playing music into her head. Her hair is a bright dyed red and her outfit is made up of grays and blacks.
People stare at her as she is walking. Is she emo or something? People wonder.
Just down the commons, a stocky boy with a number plastered across his jersey strides along talking to his buddies.
“He is so full of himself,” some students say. “What a jerk.”
Stereotyping has long been a problem among high school students. But when did the stereotyping become OK, how does it make teens feel and how do we stop it?
First, what is a stereotype? The dictionary definition explains that it is a “simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group.” In high school, stereotyping can be simply described as seeing someone and judging them instantly by what is seen.
In society, it seems as if stereotyping is OK because folks think that stereotypes are proven true. But what about the people who are judged to be something they that they aren’t at all?
Marcos Ninataype of Weber High School, for example, expressed how he had been stereotyped as being of Mexican heritage because of his dark skin when in fact, he is Peruvian.
“They’re ignorant to what’s really around them,” the junior said.
“I know you can never get around a first impression,” said Savannah Higley, a Weber High senior, “but people need to stop judging others when they first see them.”
Jocks and nerds?
When people stereotype others, the ones being stereotyped may often feel judged and as if people do not want to get to know them.
“Because I play sports someone would see me in a jersey and automatically think that I’m a jock,” said Trevor Allen, a junior at Fremont High School. “They are putting a label on you before they even get to know you.”
Natalie Crook, a sophomore at Weber High, said, “I have been stereotyped as a nerd or dork because my friends and I have competitions as to who can get straight A’s. I always try my hardest in school.”
“When I first meet people, they think I’m serious and quiet, but that’s not me at all,” said Daniel Crosby, a Weber High senior. “It just shows how stupid stereotyping can be. You need to get to know people before you make a final judgment.”
“I was one of those people that was a ‘goody-goody.’ People think I’m an overachiever. A lot of times people don’t give me the chance to show who I really am,” Higley said.
Now that stereotyping has been defined, and we’ve seen how it might make others feel, how can the problem of stereotyping be fixed?
“I think it can be prevented … If people look hard enough they can find the truth,” explained Abbica Peterson, a junior at Davis High School.
One way to prevent the problem is to stop the judging or stereotyping of others the moment it happens. When you hear someone judging another, make sure to ask them if they really know that person. Do they really understand what that person is like or have they just heard rumors?
If you can stop the spread of rumors, the amount of stereotyping will go down immediately. Although it isn’t always popular, do the right thing and tell others to not judge someone before they know them.
Another way to squash the stereotyping is to break out of your own shell a little bit. Get to know people that you otherwise wouldn’t be friends with. This way you could build lasting friendships and make another feel as if someone wants to get to know them more, instead of judging them.
“I think just by not judging by outward appearance will stop the stereotypes given to high school students,” said Michelle Skonnard, a Davis High junior. “Get to know people. Who they are inside.”
A more fun way to stop stereotyping is to learn about other people, maybe even by visiting local restaurants. There are many restaurants that are owned by people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, and when you support those businesses it helps you realize and open your eyes to things in the world that are not always what they seem.
Another idea would be to attend your friends’ different religious services and find out what other types of traditions and beliefs exist. This can also stop the stereotyping you may believe.
Stereotyping can be stopped, and in doing so, high school can be turned into a fun environment for those kids that feel judged and left out. It is just up to teens to realize that it isn’t kind to stereotype, and to stop it. Break the stereotypes and be someone who just won’t be put into a certain “group.”
Krystal Ruiz is a sophomore at Weber High School. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.