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How And Where Did Stereotypes Come From?


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I am of Polish descent and have always been curious where the idea/myth/stereotype of Polish people being dumb came from? I had thought that when the many Pol's came thru Ellis Island that they could not answer the questions required because they could not speak enough English...and this fact was not taken into account when they were questioned. I remember in a class I took a number of years ago the teacher spoke about this...and that many times a question would be asked, such as; What color is a school bus? Well, even tho the person didn't even know what a school bus was!...they would be "graded" on not knowing it's color! There are soooo many stereotypes and myths about so many peoples and animals for that matter....I would love to get other's perspectives...

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Another ideas about how that particular stereotype/joking started: Poles who immigrated were close-knit, religious, often had their own schools. I think Irish jokes started around the same time. Human temptations to put others down that are different than us goes WAY back. I'll bet it predates Ellis Island.


The sad thing is how long the jokes have propagated. But I rarely hear "Polack jokes" anymore. The one exception is my dad (who was in the Navy) trying to pass them along to my kids! One of my sons put a bag of bread with a twist tie in the microwave and my dad called that a "Polish Operation." He would be surprised to find out that the "Polish Operation" was a campaign of genocide in WW2. Not at all what he was thinking.


I had thought that Anti-Semitic slurs had decreased, too, but my kids say it sometimes still goes on.


When will we ever learn?

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Can you please elaborate? :^) Where do you think many of them came from?


Racial, ethnic, and religious intolerance are still present, and I think they are present to a far greater degree than most people would care to admit.

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I don't know about the psychological reasons for predjudice, but I will make a few conjectures from a sociological point of view. Until a few decades ago, derogatory generalizations about "others" were commonplace. Now, people tend to be more circumspect out of an aversion to being criticized, but they often speak resentfully of their critics as fuddy-duddies or as "PC." A recent flap over inappropriate language concerning the President's chief of staff brought a comment from Rush Limbaugh to the effect that it is dishonest to avoid such comments where, as he believes, they are appropriate. People such as Limbaugh seem to take pride in their use of hostile and degrading language about folks they disagree with. Since he has a large audience, it follows that many people feel less constrained about "speaking their mind," or however they term it.


Just some thoughts on the subject.

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Bits and pieces.


Don't tell my boss's boss that Poles are considered dumb and don't talk about Russia. She's Polish.


Almost every immigrant wave received the same negative treatment. The Scots in particular in the 1800s.


The first Vietnamese immigrant I met was smart and hard working so I hired the next Vietnamese who applied without a second thought. He wasn't.


My father would go to Larimer street in Denver 40 years ago to be with people who were worse off than he was.


My wife's father, who didn't want to be rejected, changed all ethnic jokes to his own ethnicity. It didn't change his prejudices.


A generation from now people may wonder how we could have been so insensitive with our humor.


People at the margins of life are considered less than we. Freud? perhaps apocryphally, perhaps someone else, said we can love everyone as long as we have someone to hate.



Take Care


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  • 2 weeks later...

I see prejudice as a fundamental hardwired human flaw. The sooner we recognize and admit it , the easier it will be to control it.

Maybe it is tied to our animalistic self preservation instinct?


It is a demon all humans fight their entire life.



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