Stereotypes About Muslim American Culture Essay Example

Two things that humans use every day are their minds and their senses. Both these things are essential for the human to function as they control how we feel and perceive things in our surroundings. Now, one thing that the brain allows all human minds to do is look at food in different ways. Every person likes certain foods, and other people that are allergic might hate that same food. Human senses, including smell and taste, play a big part in this; and someone’s experience of trying a meal one day gets stored in their minds and influences whether they will try that food or any food like it again. On another day when they order that same food, they could have a different experience with it and realize that they are quite fond of it. This same application on human taste can be applied to how many mainstream middle-class Americans view people of the Islamic faith. In modern times, there is a considerable stigma put against Muslim people causing a racial and cultural stereotype to form against them, which negatively affects their day-to-day lives, but this negative view imposed onto these people can change, which is seen through neuroplasticity and the science behind how our senses work.

It is well known that each human’s senses and preferences are different based on where they live and where they are brought up (Wexler, 2011). Independence is something more valued in America, whereas interdependence is more valued in East Asia (Kitayama, Park & Cho, 2016). Similar to this idea, many principles that people have might be viewed as wrong by someone of a different culture simply because of how they are raised and brought up. Two people that were raised in similar ways to the similar culture might have similar preferences and values. The problem arises when it is assumed that the entire culture has that same preference. This assumption is a stereotype. These stereotypes are faced by people of the Islamic faith every day, and it is often tough for them to overcome them (Kitayama, Park & Cho).

The Islamic stereotype that is currently held by mainstream middle-class Americans can be detrimental to the Muslim people it affects. A Gallup poll showed a staggering 43% of Americans having some sort of prejudice towards Muslim Americans (Younis). This prejudice has only increased since the 9/11 attacks and the attacks in San Bernardino, causing major job discrimination (Pal). A study done by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University proves this. The researchers did a field study of the responses of 4,000 U.S. employers to fake Facebook accounts that had the exact same qualifications except one identified as Muslim and the other as Christian. Researchers found that there was an evident bias towards the Christian applicant over the Muslim applicant, and found that this was especially true in more conservative states. The study states that, “In more Republican-leaning states, only 2 percent of applications by the Muslim candidate received interview invitations compared to 17 percent for the Christian candidate” (Greenberg). This evidence is further supported by the fact that the same Gallup poll previously mentioned also found that only 60% of Americans would vote for a well-qualified Muslim American for president in comparison to 92% in support of a well-qualified Catholic (Younis).

Many Muslim Americans are denied jobs, even though they may be well qualified. The people denying Muslim Americans these jobs also fail to recognize that there are many benefits to having a multicultural workforce. By having a multicultural workforce, you allow for fresh ideas and perspectives, and it betters the working environment. By having a diverse workforce, you also attract more people of talent that would only benefit business by increasing productivity and overall output (Moultry). These past few pieces of evidence make it clear that these stereotypes have actually had a negative impact on the lives of Muslim adults, but these stereotypes also reach the lives of Muslim children. The 43% of Americans holding prejudice against Muslim Americans also applies to school children and the bullying that these children often go through can strain them physically, mentally, and emotionally (Younis). This prejudice can also affect their academic performance and their ability to share and report the issues they are having. This can, in turn, lead to stress and mental disorders that could go on to affect their adult lives (Sultan). More assumptions are made in the mainstream middle-class American mind, when a Muslim woman is brought into the picture. It is, in fact, a clear example of how human behaviors and cultures shape one’s attitudes to specific cultures. Just because these women veil themselves, assumptions are made about them and their lives. People fail to see things from their perspective, but if they were able to do so, and just look at why and try and understand them, much of the racial injustices happening to these women would be solved, and they would not run into the issues that we see in the media (Abu-Lughod).

The human mind has greater ability to retain information, whether it be in the form of facts or personal preferences and these pieces of information are what is used to make decisions. However, much of what is thought and believed to hold true can change with time, and this is due to the brain’s neuroplasticity, especially regarding culture. How someone is born and raised has a sizeable impact on how they perceive things and people around us. Everyone’s parents and grandparents have certain beliefs and virtues that they hold true to themselves and pass down onto their children. The minds of children are continually developing and growing, and these beliefs evolve with them. Mainstream middle-class American citizens often have the hardest time changing their views because many are raised with the idea that independence is something to strive for. As stated by Shinobu Kitayama, a professor in Psychology at the University of Michigan, in his study on Culture and Neuroplasticity “the cumulative evidence provided by cultural neuroscience makes a convincing case that culture makes sizable differences in patterns of brain activation for a variety of different tasks and domains,” (Kitayama, Park & Cho). The same study also found that specific activities that are more prevalent in certain cultures can cause the brain to change in different regions and fuel more thought processes. This means that if Americans apply themselves more to certain activities such as using an abacus or meditating, they would be fueling their ability to change (Kitayama, Park & Cho). If Americans can improve their thinking, then they can also then be able to change the way they perceive Muslim Americans and slowly move towards a fairer system where the likelihood of a Muslim American receiving a job is just as high as a Catholic receiving a job.

Now once the brain is more open and likely to change it will also become more open to sense things differently. Human senses impact one’s perception just as much as their memory, and past experiences do. This can even be seen in their sense of smell. The nose, in particular, can change the way someone views a certain environment or person. How someone smells makes the brain make certain assumptions about that person. If a person sees someone and then gets a certain off-scent from them, they immediately begin to think that that person either does not shower, does not take good care of themselves, or does not have the money to take care of themselves. Upon getting to know that same person, however, one could find out that the person might have just come back from a location where the scent was terrible and in actuality is a well-off individual. It is assumptions like this that help to create racial stereotyping, but the same way the senses adapt means that it is possible for those views to change and these assumptions to actually be different (Axel). If the brain has the ability to change and human senses the ability to adapt, then put together humans are also able to change the views that they currently have retained and replace them with more favorable views that would actually allow for Muslim Americans to be viewed in a better light. This new view would allow Muslim Americans a higher chance of getting jobs that allow them to care for their families and live the lives that all Americans are entitled to.

Discovering that humans have the ability to change and adapt is already a great discovery, but some people might argue against change as they might see it as unnecessary or they might just be hard in their beliefs. It was found by the Pew Research Center that 63% of white evangelicals believe that Islam encourages violence more than other faiths and 72% believe that there is a natural conflict between Islam and democracy (Lipka). It is these groups of people along with others that are creating the stereotypes against Muslim Americans. It is recommended that these people imagine themselves in the shoes of Muslim American. Take Lewis Carroll’s famous work “Through the Looking Glass”. The reader is met by Alice, a peculiar girl who ends up imagining herself going into her looking glass and everything is the exact opposite of how it is normally (Carroll 1-3). This same take can be used to talk about perception. Mainstream middle-class Americans need to look through the looking glass in order to fully comprehend how the Muslim Americans are truly feeling. It is only after doing so that one can unlock the ability to change and fully accept them.

As adults changing everyone’s views of Muslim Americans may be a difficult task and this is recognized, but something that would not be as difficult is teaching acceptance and instill these ideas at a young age. As stated previously, children learn principles at a young age and those grow up with them. These same principles can be taught in school by teachers. If American teachers teach the students about stereotypes and how they affect others, they cannot only see a possible reduction in bullying, but a reduction in prejudice against Muslim Americans and other cultures and races like Indian Americans and African Americans. Acceptance should be taught in grades K-5 when the students have a small number, preferably 1, of teachers. Then this one teacher will be able to instill the lessons of acceptance in these children. It was also found that teaching ideas work best if they start at a young age, like Kindergarten. As acceptance is not something easily taught in one day, by implementing more activities to simulate this, one can increase the effectiveness of these lessons in children (Brown). One perspective that we should look at here is the perspective of the teacher. It is only after the teacher is comfortable teaching the children about acceptance that these lessons can be effective. So, the second part of this solution would actually be to provide training or seminars for teachers so that these lessons can be taught effectively (Eustice).

By increasing the amount of acceptance education in America, people would be arming the children of the nation with the ability to cause a change to occur that is well overdue. The treatment of Muslim Americans has been cruel and unfair, and by implementing this solution, people would be decreasing prejudice and increasing equality. The 43% prejudice that is seen among Americans will decrease by implementing this solution and after years of prejudice and hurt these Muslim Americans deserve to have access to the same rights that other Americans have (Younis).


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