Shook Hands With My New Coworker Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1759 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Sociology

¶ … shook hands with my new coworker, he said, "Hey! Jackie Chan!" I looked around me. At first I honestly did not know what he was talking about. Did he not get my name right? "No, my name is Jonathan," I told him. We stopped shaking hands and then it hit me. I'm Asian. My coworker was probably trying to break the ice and find common ground with someone he obviously viewed as an alien, because I look nothing like Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan became our common ground: an Asian media hero who like Judith Ortiz Cofer's Evita or Maria symbolizes the dominant culture's stereotypes of non-white cultures. Jackie Chan is the Asian man's cartoon, the caricature that many members of the dominant culture use as a lens to view all other Asian men. In "The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria," Cofer shows how stereotyping has not only caused strangers to sing to her. Stereotypes have also impeded the upward mobility of Latinas throughout the United States, where they are viewed primarily as "domestics" or as "hot" women. Her stated objective in her writing is to help individuals break through the limitations of stereotypes. Stereotypes have affected me in many of the same ways they affected Cofer, even though both our gender and our cultural background differs. They may seem harmless but stereotypes shape personal and professional relationships and even impact the social status of the entire ethnic group.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Shook Hands With My New Coworker, He Assignment

Stereotypes impact interpersonal relationships and affect the development of friendships and business relationships. Cofer comments that stereotypes "make you into an island," isolating individuals by turning them into caricatures (p. 113). Many of the men she met instantly associated Cofer with Evita and Maria just as many of the men I meet instantly associate me with Jackie Chan or any other Asian film star. Stereotypes are therefore significant barriers to communication. The affect the all-important first impression. Because of the way I look, people who meet me cannot view me as any human being; they must view me as Asian. This triggers a long list of stereotypes that may seem harmless and friendly but which really come in the way of genuine human relating. For example, my coworker did not say, "Hey! Jonathan! Wanna go to lunch with me and my buddies today?" He did not ask me what movies I like or even if I have seen a Jackie Chan movie (I have not).

Like Cofer, I have realized that stereotypes evolve because many customs and traditions are "lost in translation," (p. 115). Cofer realized that Puerto Rican women were considered flashy and treated as if they welcomed sexual advances from men because social customs and gender norms differed on her homeland. In Puerto Rico, women not only dress differently than they do in America. They are also protected by social codes, by their brothers and other members of their extended families. These social norms do not carry over from the island to the mainland. As a result, Puerto Rican women find themselves isolated and cut off from the support networks they had on the island. The stereotype of the hot Latin babe is based partly on the truth that Latinas do dress differently. However, that kernel of truth has been grossly distorted. Their different dress does not mean that Latin women should be treated disrespectfully and it certainly doesn't mean that Latinas welcome sexual advances or songs from strangers. Although no stranger has ever sung me a song, I have had many people unexpectedly bow to me because I am Asian and they think that is what we do when we greet each other. Something was evidently lost in translation. Stereotypes must be overcome if genuine human understanding is to occur.

Stereotypes can have a bearing on who are friends are, who we become intimate with, and who our enemies become. Someone who I might be compatible with could be turned off because of my ethnicity or afraid to relate to me because they don't understand my culture. Cofer does not discuss her personal life but it is apparent that being Latina has affected her interactions with men. Similarly, being Asian has affected my relationships with women. I have found that American popular culture supports two distinct and opposite stereotyped caricatures of Asian men. The first is the kung fu action hero and the other is the nerd. Asian men are either masters at martial arts and therefore able to win any fight. If we cannot live up to that stereotype then we are usually cast into the latter category and labeled as a math and science nerd. The caricature of the smart, overachieving Asian man is everywhere in the popular media. It has become as pervasive as the martial artist stereotype. Recently I saw a film in which an Asian couple played cold, calculating genetic scientists. The images were chilling because they portrayed the couple in an unfavorable light, turning what is potentially a neutral stereotyped image into a harmful one. Many people I have met in school automatically assume I fit into one or the other category. Males and females test me almost as soon as they meet me to see whether I am a kung fu master or a science whiz. When they find out I am neither I can tell they look puzzled. The ones that really want to get to know me get over it, move past it, and become my friends. The rest don't. They are content to live in a world in which we are all conveniently divided into categories as if we were sandwiches or cookies.

Stereotypes affect professional as well as personal relationships. In her essay Coffer relates a story about being mistaken for a waitress because of her looks. The restaurant customer was obviously embarrassed when Cofer revealed that she was reading her poetry, but the interaction reveals a disturbing trend. Americans continue to view Hispanics as "domestics." Because of this stereotype, Latina women like Cofer lose their professional credibility. They run into uncomfortable situations like the one in the restaurant. Asian men like me encounter similar situations at work. We are not allowed to express ourselves on our own terms. Instead, others set the terms for us in advance. With preset expectations in place, we move around awkwardly in the workplace. People watch us closely to see what we will do, how we will react, and how we fit the stereotype of the Asian male. Coworkers anticipate that we will be quiet and well-behaved, always on time, and politely avoid any argument. We Asians are supposed to be good at math so our colleagues hand us graphs and charts or suddenly say "Hey Jonathan! What's 7.5% of 919,999?" At least she didn't call me Jackie Chan.

At school as well as in work, stereotypes have affected my relationships with teachers. Since I was young teachers have treated me differently than they treated the Caucasian kids or the African-American kids or the Hispanic kids. One gym coach pulled the martial arts cartoon on me, entering into some karate pose and showing off a few of his best chops. "Can you do that?" he asked. When I said no demurely, he actually said, "Oh I guess you're one of those smart kids." His comment hurt, dampening my interest in my favorite sport, football. If he expected a lot from me as a martial arts master he did not have high expectations of me as a football player. Similarly, math teachers have held unusually high expectations of me. Even when I lived up to them, I felt uncomfortable as if I were perpetuating the stereotype that was trapping me and my Asian friends. When I didn't do well on an exam part of me felt vindicated for my entire race. "Hah! Proved them wrong." Like Cofer I can get angry about stereotypes. Although she does not mention how teachers interacted with her on the basis of her ethnicity she does note that education is itself a major tool for minority students to participate in the dominant culture. Education is the cultural capital we need to survive in a world full of stereotypes. We can use our education to express ourselves better, critique the dominant culture, and communicate to others like Cofer does.

Finally, Cofer makes clear the point that stereotypes have a strong effect on a minority group's social status. Hispanics, handicapped by language barriers and poverty, have traditionally been forced to take low-wage jobs as domestic workers. Cofer claims that because of this hard truth, many second and third-generation Latinas cannot overcome the image others hold, that all Latin women are good for is cleaning houses. She mentions an anecdote about a Latina friend who impressed others with her "big words" (p. 114). If all Latina women are expected to work at menial jobs then they will be systematically turned down from worthwhile positions or promotions. Stereotypes affect the first impressions of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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