Stereotyping, Discrimination and Prejudice in the Media Essay.
The movie that I have chosen to watch for this particular bonus assignment is called “The Freedom Writers”. The movie is about a new teacher and the challenges that she faces in order to make the students in her English class, who come from different ethnics backgrounds and who most hate each other, get along. And, of course, by the end of the movie, she is successful in doing so.
Racism played a major role in this movie, seen as a negative aspect in the children’s attitudes and mentalities.
Racism is defined as negative behaviour on an incorrect assumption that one race is inherently superior to others. This is one of the many forms of discrimination which is defined as unfair actions directed against people based on their race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, language, faith, or sexual orientation. Throughout the movie, there are many examples of racism. Basically, the students going to that high school come from different background, and therefore, at high school, they create separate “tribes”.
Such tribes where “south of the boarder – Latinos”, “little Cambodia”, “the ghetto”, “Wonder bread Land”, and others that were not mentioned.
All of these “tribes” believed that their race is superior to the “other”, and if that “other” particular race would not exist, their life would be much better. From this, many problems leading to violence, and even crime, aroused. Many students went to boot camps, or jail for youths, and lost a lot of their friends because of gang related activities. In addition to this, in the movie it was mentioned that in Long Beach, the place where the action takes place, it all comes down to what you look like; Latino, Asian, Black, etc. They are so buried in their hatred towards each other, that it is likely to get shot anytime you walk out of your door. The students fight each other for territory, kill each other over race, pride and respect.
Prejudice is seen in the movie as well. Prejudice is defined as a set of opinions, attitudes, and feelings that unfairly cast a group and its members in a negative light, without legitimate reasons. In a way, prejudice is tied to stereotype. On the other hand, stereotypes is more a false or generalized belief about a group of people that result in categorizing members without regard for individual reference. One example of a combination between prejudice and stereotype in this movie is when Eva, one of the students in room 203, says to her teacher, that she hates her because she is white. The reason she gives for hating on white people is that she knows what they can do. This is based on the experiences from her past, when some white cops arrested her father, even though he was an innocent man. In my opinion, she is wrong to generalize the entire white species of humans, according to a couple of police men. This is an example of over discrimination, because it is open and obvious.
More precisely, it is at the first level of discrimination which is antilocution. In this stage, it is talked about white people in unflattering terms, and Eva freely discusses her negative feelings towards a certain group of people, which are white people. A second important example of stereotype in this movie is when a very immature boy draws a drawing of a black student with enlarged features, which resulted to be oversized lips. He made a huge mistake by drawing that and sending it around the classroom so people would laugh at it. This is when the teacher realized there was a common ground between the students in room 203, and the Jews during the Holocaust. She immediately made the connection when she saw the inappropriate drawing of the black man. She remembered and told her class how Jewish people were drawn with having oversized noses. These were put in the newspaper by the Nazi, along with other “scientific” evidence that Jewish people were inferior to the rest, and it did not matter whether they lived or died. This is how the extermination of the Jewish people occurred during the World War 2.
Extermination is the most harmful level of discrimination. The prejudice is so intense that victims are seen inferior to human species, and become targets of murder or genocide. When the teacher asked the class who knew what the Holocaust was, only one white person out of the entire body of students knew. That is when she realized that the students had very little knowledge about the outside world. This greatly related to Gordon W. Allport’s theory. Allport was a psychologist who used questionnaires and interviews to measure the strength of individual prejudice, and who found a correlation between higher education and experiences such as knowledge about cultures, traveling, etc, and “tolerance” or the acceptance of differences between people. In this case, because the students were not taught and were unaware that there were similar cases to theirs, only on a greater scale, they continued to prejudge, and discriminate against each other. Later on in the movie though, because they begin to travel more and gain more knowledge about the outside world, they become more aware and realize that they should change. In addition, three other theorists’ ideas play a role in the movie.
The first one is Frances Aboud, who believes that children first learn prejudice from the media, family, friends, etc, when they are bombarded with negative images. In this movie, the girl Eva is a perfect example of how she changed the way she sees people. Since she was a little girl, her father used to tell her that she had to fight for their people as the ancestors fought against those who say they are not equal in beauty and blessing, and that she had to do anything she cud in order to maintain her and her race’s pride and honor; even if that meant hurting other innocent people. This is how the family could influence and shape a person’s beliefs from a very young age. The second theorist’s idea that I found in the movie was Elliot Aronson’s. He talked about successfully desegregate schools, therefore integrate different ethnic backgrounds so they would learn how to work together in a productive manner. The last but not least, Beverly Tatum’s ideas were presented in the movie.
She said that to get rid of the negative stereotyping in our society, you have to begin by communicating to one another, get to know each other by engaging into conversations to find common things. This was the main idea in my opinion, since the movie is named “The Freedom Writers”. Once they shared their worst experiences with each other, the children actually felt the pain of one another, and they started to appreciate and get along better. Sociologists would look at the reasons why people discriminate against one another, and try to find out solutions to end it. One of the solutions would be too travel more, find out about other cultures, rather than your own.
A person who is ethnocentric strongly favors their own kind or ethnicity over others. By traveling, you may discover knew things that were unknown to you previously, and come to realize that there are other cultures in the world that are as diverse and phenomenal as yours. Anthropologists would look at issues analyze issues about race and come to the conclusion that people have been conditioned to view human races as separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. This is very wrong, because in a sense, it is like a paradigm. A paradigm is a set of rules and conditions stored in our brains that a person uses to understand sensory experiences. We have a filter to tell us based on how a particular person looks, his/her image, whether or not they can be trusted, whether or not they are dangerous, etc. In my opinion this is a very wrong way to look at a person because you do not actually see the person for who he/she is, but based on images that are stored in your mind from media, friends, prior experiences, education, personal background, and other influences.
The lessons that can be learned from this film are too many to list. However, some would be that we should not discriminate against people before we get to know them. I say this because I am 100% sure that once you take the time to get to know the person, you would not be able to discriminate against them anymore. Secondly, you should expand your basic knowledge learned in school with other books, trips, reading diaries of people that were willing enough to publish them, in order to learn from their mistakes, and once you have a better understanding, you will see them with different eyes.
To be honest, I have watched this movie three times so far and I still did not get tired of watching. I liked it very much. Even though I was never discriminated against, because the children were around my age, I could easily assimilate with them. I cried, laughed, sang along with them. It was a great movie, and it taught me many valuable things that I am sure are going to come in handy in life. Who knew media could actually be good sometimes?movie: Freedom Writers