With the presence of social media, it is easier than ever for people to receive false, stereotypical and biased information. Everything we need to learn is at the tips of our fingers, but if we don’t use it with caution, we can often end up being misinformed.
You often don’t know who to blame. Of course the media is the front line and you can’t not be angry about how they portray different cultures and minorities. How the heck do they get away with it?! It angers me because very little attention is given to the effect that such misrepresentation has on those minorities in the real world.
If you are on the receiving end of the stick and you are having to hear people repeat those stereotypes in public, this can be very frustrating. As a Lebanese woman living in Canada, I constantly hear stereotypes and biases voiced. I often find myself laughing in disbelief that people actually believe everything they see on TV and don’t take the time to educate themselves and research the “facts” or as some would say these days, the “alternate facts”.
There are many ways you could deal with a situation like that: you can be mad about it, you can brush it off or you can deal with it yourself.
If you start to pace back and forth and grow angry about how your ethnicity is represented, and the millions of biases people hold… let’s just say you’ll be angry for a long time. But, keep in mind that sometimes being angry can be what you need because in turn, your negative energy may be turned into something a little bit more positive.
You might decide that you want to do something to put this to an end. This could be something as simple as seeing something that misrepresents a culture (doesn’t have to be your own) and contacting the media agency behind the news to let them know that they are wrong. Dealing with the problem head on can be one of the most rewarding ways to feel as if you are making a difference. Even if you find the use of a word in an article stereotypes or is biased against a group of people or insulting them, you always have the opportunity to request a correction. Always explain yourself and use facts to back up your argument. You will start to feel rewarded when you see little changes being put in place.
If you hear someone speaking about a certain topic and mentioning their own set of facts, don’t be afraid to speak up. In this case, only jump in if you are 100% certain about your arguments and that you have enough information to back you up. You don’t want to end up looking small and stupid because that’s exactly how the other party wants you to feel. Often they will try to manipulate you, but as long as you’re confident and are able to stand your ground, you should be just fine.
There will be times where you are so fed up with hearing all the crap and you’re too drained to have an argument or a discussion with a close-minded second party. That’s okay. Don’t guilt yourself for what you should have said and what you didn’t say. Thing is, when you are considered a minority in the media and in the community you live in, people often target you to ask you how you feel about [insert topic that involves your ethnicity here]. They will do it so much that you may get to a point where you are so sick and tired of repeating yourself and your perspective. Don’t be afraid to shut them out or offer them a book or an Internet resource they can use for reference.
This type of “war” doesn’t seem to end. The second you think the public can’t be more oblivious--they shock you. Just when you start to think that the media must know better, it gets worse. Stand your ground and keep your facts straight. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your people.
By Zeinab Saidoun