Stereotyping and its costs

Recently I watched this

And this:

I’ve been watching TED videos for years now but still feel like an eye opening.

People may say, “Oh come on, these are TED videos right? They are meant to impress people.” I’m actually not that easily impressed. I’m not talking about the technology or the plasticity of human brain. I’m talking about the very fact that a disabled person could become an MIT professor, lead a world class research team or could be so sharp, so articulate and appear so *normal*.

Despite all the pride of being Chinese, we have to admit, that would not happen in modern China.

If Mr. Hugh Herr had been born in China, he would have probably at best dropped out of school very early on and attended a special school or even worse, simply stay at home, completely isolated. If Mr. Daniel Kish were in China, he won’t have had the chance to share his personal experience with others. Instead, with his outstanding ability, he probably will end up making a living by showing off his special ability in a circus (Or in Beijing subway if circus fade out of favor completely).

The reason behind the differences, I believe, lies primarily in everyone’s mind.

I happen to know the concept of “stereotype threat”. For those who don’t know, according to wikipedia it is “one of the most widely studied topics in the field of social psychology”, that evaluates the impact of stereotyping. As it turns out, a lot of performance gaps between groups can be explained by this stereotype threat. I personally believe that stereotype threat is the key reason behind the performance gap between disabilities in China and disabilities in the US.

Let’s face it: China is still a country full of biased stereotypes. It’s true that stereotyping is part of human nature and that stereotypes exist in every society. However, China stands out in allowing stereotypes to go unchecked in every corner of everyday life, TV programs, newspapers, magazines, even textbooks for children. As a consequence, people are so used to all sort of stereotypes that no one even bothers to stand up against said stereotype, even though everyone has been a victim of one form of stereotype or another.

I have to admit that, I only started to pay attention to this topic after my wife and I had a child. My wife and I are lucky, our daughter is normal in every aspect. However, as new and inexperienced parents, at times when my daughter was sick and sometimes we became scared and couldn’t help but think about all kinds of what-if scenarios.

Out of this kind of reasoning I became a person that is conscious about stereotype. Bit by bit I recalled how I have struggled against all sorts of stereotypes against myself when I was young. I started to realized how I have stereotyped others and how destructive that could be. Everyone is a victim of this inescapable net of stereotyping.

So, on this special day, I propose one thing we could do to bring positive changes to China, without disturbing the government: reflect on ourselves and stop stereotyping.

To end this article, here’s a Stanford professor on this topic: