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Shedding the Skin of Stereotypes

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Though nothing new to society, stereotypes among teens are especially common. In fact, it may seem odd to roam the halls of any middle school within America and not witness such division occurring hourly. Who is not guilty of glancing at an individual, summarizing their story- based on pure assumption- and closing the “box” in your mind? Sadly, when labels are placed on individuals, we fail to dig deeper to reveal their true inner beauty. We all lose friends due to rash and often harsh, critical assessments of character which are often untrue potential, lifelong friends. When one chooses to see people in the most simplest of terms, we all lose. Stereotypes are merely a kinder, gentler, approach at racism of mankind.
I am, at first glance, a stereotypical blonde 7th grade cheerleader. I am a high- achiever academically and internally driven. My perfectly prissy and girly appearance has made my life somewhat different from the bed of roses most people seem to think it is. Last year, I was poised and confident; therefore, a threat and an immediate target was placed on my back. So, I spent my entire 6th grade year facing daily assaults both verbally and physically from the boys and girls who flooded the hallways. As I trudged onward- seeing the bigger, better and brighter picture- my loyal parents and brother searched for answers.
Fees were exhausted on private school tuitions and interviews were attended. All the while, I continued down a never- ending path of abuse. As my acceptance letters came, so did my clarity. Regardless of socio- economics and location of school, I would forever encounter “stereotypical” issues. Being intelligent, driven, attractive and ambitious are apparently deadly among unsettled, unsure teen girls any way you slice it.
There have been times when we have heard, “Don’t judge a book by its cover…” but very few go the extra mile to apply that to real- life situations. School in middle and high school years is a tough place for boys and girls alike. Adolescence, pressure to achieve and excel are tangible for all. How much better would everyone be if the labels of “jocks,” “brains,” “geeks,” and “princess” were shed rather than allowed to breed and wreak havoc?
Children learn what they live and are products of their environment. Teens, especially, are sensitive to what others say and feel about them. As they mature and grow, often times individuals become what the label they have been given suggests. In the case of a “brain,” or a “jock,” that may appear to be a positive thing. In fact, more often then not, the labels are negative, the stereotypes hurtful and wrong, and the children damaged forever both emotionally and psychologically.
Despite my label of “Barbie,” or even much worse, I try to display strength and character. I also try daily to remember the lessons of humility and sacrifice in our home. Having class is not defined by a number in your back account. I have encountered plenty of children through my young life for whom everything has been handed on a silver platter. I find it amusing that these children are often the ones with little dignity and grace. How easy for me to put my own little stereotypes in place in my mind and activate them. Then I remember: look at things in a new way. Things are not what they seem.
We are all taught as youngsters to tolerate one another’s differences, work well in team situations and to all “get along.” Yet, as we mature, precious little time is spent on reminding us not to be guilty of stereotyping. In fact, such a common practice is accepted, acknowledged and even dabbled in by adult teachers as they tend to their flock of students.
Yet, how inspiring would it be if each of us vowed to make a difference? Our nation could resume its status at the top of the heap, people could be what they wanted to be and we could try a little harder to show love. As our economy struggles to “get back to the basics,” so should humanity.
On January 20, 2009, our nation paused to reflect for a few moments with awe the inauguration of our 44th President of the United States. Barack Obama has done the ultimate. He has shed the skin of stereotype to rise above it all and succeed. He has risen to the height of his profession as our fearless leader of this great country. For a day, we all shed tears of relief, hope and joy at the possibility—just the thought of the possibility—that this could happen for us all. Hardened hearts were melted, love overflowed through the entire world as our democratic nation was center-stage on the stage of hope. Hope for a brighter tomorrow, hope for peace overseas, and above all – hope that Americans can ultimately see beyond race, color, prejudice and stereotypes!





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pinksage33 said...
Jun. 3, 2009 at 11:35 pm
Very good point.
 
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