The Danger of Stereotypes

How stereotypes shape our views and perspectives.

Stereotypes of the White Culture

White people make up a broad category of individuals, specifically in the United States 74% of American citizens are white (2010 US CENSUS). As like any culture there are many stereotypes associated with white people. The cliché of the “picture perfect family” all the way to “white trash” comes to mind when people think about whites. When polled, according to John Hartigan, the majority of people said that whites were relatively non-dangerous and less likely to commit a crime than a Latino or African American person. Since white people are composed of many different international backgrounds there are different stereotypes of people within the white stereotype. In this blog I will discuss some of the most common stereotypes along with how they came about.

The upper/middle class white family, as seen in the Novel Tortilla Curtain, has a common typical idea associated with it. The thought of a wealthy, powerful, privileged family comes to many people’s minds when thinking about the upper/middle white class. These are often seen as the “picture perfect families”, residing in suburban-gated neighborhoods with the classic white picket fence, a mother and father with daughters and sons. These neighborhoods also have their own stereotype of containing “cookie cutter” houses that all look alike. The idea of most white families living in beautiful, expensive homes is translated into the Tortilla Curtain where Delaney and his family live in a neighborhood which is about to become a gated community to keep out trespassers.

Family picture outside of their nice home.

The white culture is highly associated with different class systems. Including the upper, middle and lower classes. Depending on how much money your family makes, and what types of the jobs the parents have, determines which class you fall under. The stereotype of all upper/middle class adults having jobs consisting of doctors, lawyers, and business executives appears to be relatively true. Although there are families with old money who do not have high paying jobs but have large inheritance. The idea that money equals power is where the stereotype that most whites are powerful came from, which leads them to believe in white supremacy. This thought of white supremacy is what contributes most to white people being the most racist culture, because we see ourselves as better than say black people or Mexicans.

On the flip side of the positive stereotype of white people is the “white trash” stereotype. The people primarily categorized in this stereotype include those living in poverty, poorly educated, homeless, frequent drug users, and most shockingly people who associate with African Americans or Mexicans. The term white trash is commonly combined with the slang derogatory word “wigger”, known as a white person who acts like a black person. Also a family of mixed races might be referred to as white trash. This “white trash” stereotype is what fills in the gap between the upper/middle class stereotype and the Mexican and illegal immigrant stereotypes we have in the United States.

This is a common image of what people think of when they hear of a typical "white trash" family.

The following youtube video is from the showtime comedy “Weeds”. It takes place in a southern California neighborhood. The opening song makes fun of the stereotype that all upper class white people live in an indentical house, drvie identical cars, and have the same jobs. Also similar to in the novel “Tortilla Curtain” when Candido works for Delaney and America works in a nice home for a white family as a cleaning lady, all of the characters in this show have Latino housekeepers, and landscapers.


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