I want to talk about how dangerous stereotypes can be. In the eyes of most people you can see the habits of variation of actors in movies and TV shows, repeatedly acting out the same type. The same vocabulary, the same accent, the same actions that we accept without really giving it a second thought – and that puts a target on coloured people’s backs and makes it easier to make fun of and humiliate us.
This has become so ingrained in western culture that people don’t realise how hurtful it can be.
As a person from a marginalized group surrounded by people laughing at “jokes” at my expense, again and again, I learned to keep my silence and not get irritated — and never show how much it got to me when everyone around me was laughing and laughing because of prejudiced jokes. The typical thinking pattern is to convince yourself “they’re just joking, don’t take it personally”. You end up not knowing the difference between jokes and what’s not funny at all.
Not having the confidence to stand up for yourself against vulgar “jokes” that are often gender-based violence and harassment causes your mind to unconsciously go into defence and you end up laughing along through the years — disgusting comments that are classified as light jokes, and we that respond with anything other than laughing are identified as sensitive.
All these jokes are serious and not okay – there is a difference of degree between saying “chingchong” and saying that asian girls have “tiny and tight vaginas” but you stop seeing that difference, especially as teenagers when all of this was categorized as “light jokes” and you’re constantly being encouraged to not take it seriously. That’s why stereotypes can be so dangerous.
Let’s make this a little personal to digg deeper!
I didn’t know the difference between the kids calling me “chingchong”, “a noodle” and so on, and them holding me up against a wall, pulling my pants down, fighting to see my vagina with their own eyes that I didn’t have a penis (because of the stereotypes of thai ladyboys). I wanted to scream but I couldn’t do anything other than laugh – just like at the other “jokes”. They were sexually violating me and I couldn’t see the difference between that and name calling.
It took me five years to realise how I felt, that it wasn’t normal and how insanely bad I felt — five years to realise that I was violated. My common sense was thrown out the window as I was told how to be, what I was supposed to do, what to say, how to act, and last but not least how to feel. The fact that I realised this five years later is not okay and I should have known as soon as it happened.
Many more incidences have occurred that I’m not ready to talk about yet – but what I do want to emphasize is that THIS IS NOT OKAY. If someone asks you to stop, then you should stop. I am convinced that if someone had been there to stand up for me instead of calling me sensitive – then I would’ve known better and the violation that occurred could have been prevented. And that’s what I want to prevent for the coming generations. For me it’s too late, the deal is done, and enough is enough.
We have to take this seriously — because it isn’t funny.