Shonda Rhimes sparks stereotype debate

15 years ago, California made the first state to create a domestic partnership statute and fast-forwarding to 2014, more than half of the U.S. now honors same sex marriages as well.

Such a significant shift in the rights for a particular group of people may very well lead some to think that the country has entered the realm of change. Somehow, despite the growth that has been made, the widely held ideas of certain groups of people continue to manifest in the minds of some. When asked what comes to mind when she hears the word, ‘stereotypes,’ 21-year-old Sharifa Case remarked, “generalizations.” The grouping and generalization of certain people based on preconceived notions is by definition a stereotype; however, the definition itself may not accurately represent the significant daily affects it has on the lives of some.

“I believe it’s a label, or something that stigmatizes people that are expected to do a certain thing,” says senior St. John’s University student Antoinette Stewart, 22. Stewart wears her hair in what she likes to call her ‘natural crazy state’ and feels that she is often stereotyped for that.  On the other hand, Andrew Sinclair, 22-year-old Baruch College graduate student isn’t sure that he cares so much about stereotypes at all.  “When I hear stereotypes, I think black people and fried chicken,” says Sinclair. “It’s mostly ignorance and people’s shortcut ways to identify people.”

Each of the student’s opinions on the maintenance of stereotypes all balled down to one word: ignorance. The era that we currently live in is easily remarked as the information age with knowledge at our fingertips, so the question becomes whether or not lack of knowledge can become a valid reason for pre-judging individuals. “It’s a bit more understandable when it’s done out of ignorance, but people are going to choose to be ignorant whether you like it or not,” commented Case.

Whether it is a common stereotype about African Americans, Hispanics or any other race or nationality, there is that one prominent misconception about the group that does not hold true to every individual involved. In recent news, primetime producer and powerhouse Shonda Rhimes was ridiculed and referred to as “an angry black woman” by New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley. US Weekly reports that Stanley wrote “when Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.’” Stanley then argued that “Grey’s Anatomy” character Dr. Miranda Bailey and “Scandal” character Olivia Pope “get angry,” stating that the producer “has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the ‘Angry Black Woman.’” Rhimes took to her Twitter account to comment on the widely declared insensitive critique given by the New York Times writer.

If given the choice, this is the exact stereotype that both Ms. Case and Ms. Stewart would abolish. “It’s a misunderstanding. We, as in black women, are not able to show our true emotions without getting that card thrown at us, without being angry or without people even doing the research as to why we feel the way we do. It’s really unfair because we don’t ever get the chance to express ourselves the way we need to,” says Stewart.

Although we’ve come so far as a society in many ways, we still have not overcome the habit of pre-judging and boxing in individuals based on what we see on the outside. When asked why society still chooses to stereotype despite the many successful attempts to prove the notions inaccurate, Antoinette blamed it on self-motives saying, “it’s comfortable for them. They find a certain comfort being able to point out what someone is and if someone is different from them, [pointing out] what they are. It makes them feel better about who they are or what they have.”