Expelling Stereotypes Through Friendships
Zak Ebrahim is the son of one of the terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks. He was raised to be a terrorist as well. When he began going out and living on his own, he started to change his perspective. He began making Jewish and homosexual friends, and learned that the groups of people he had been taught to hate weren’t evil at all. Because of this, his perspective changed.
Currently, society stereotypes terrorists as Middle Eastern Muslims. As we are taught these stereotypes over and over, cognitive structures are created in my mind. According to Hirchi, “. Since 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, these negative representations became even more anchored in the American cultural imaginary. Media apparatuses contribute enormously to the construction of these images and symbols rather than construct a conceptual model that sheds light on the complex relationship between the media, culture, and the political process” (Hirchi, 8). Another example of this is the refusal to call white terrorists terrorists.
In an experiment done by Horry and Wright, which closely resembled the design done by Eberhardt et al, they were able to observe a visual bias between terrorism and Middle Eastern males (Horry and Wright, 345). “The results also support Eberhardt et al.’s (2004) findings that racial stereotypes, activated through subliminal priming, can guide visual attention toward faces of other races” (355). Stereotypes being reinforced over and over again creates a pattern in our brain that become difficult to break.
However, I believe there is a way to change this. Just like Zak Ebrahim, making friends with people from groups we hold stereotypes about is a way to change our perspective. I was also raised to think something is wrong with homosexual people. When I grew up, I became friends with many LGBTQ people and some of them became my best friends. The same with Middle Eastern Muslims. I learned to be afraid of them from their representation in the media, but when I got here to UVU I met so many incredibly kind and loving Muslim people. When we step out of our comfort zone and make an effort to be friends with people from groups we have stereotypes about, we can educate ourselves in a way that the media cannot. We can create new patterns in our mind that are more realistic and healthy. I hope that more people can try to reach out and befriend people from different groups without stereotyping them in order to make an effort to have a more understanding and culturally sensitive world.
Ebrahim, Zak. I am the Son of a Terrorist. Here’s How I Chose Peace. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/zak_ebrahim_i_am_the_son_of_a_terrorist_here_s_how_i_chose_peace/transcript
HORRY, R., & WRIGHT, D. B. (2009). Anxiety and terrorism: Automatic stereotypes affect visual attention and recognition memory for White and Middle Eastern faces. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23(3), 345-357.
Hirchi, M. (2007). Media representations of the Middle East. Media Development, 54(2), 7-11.