Fighting Bias as an Introverted Japanese-American

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Courtesy of The Odyssey Online

Stereotypes command and cloud our thoughts about the perception of ourselves and others, every single day. Often harmful and incorrect, these generalized views of different groups are constructed by society, and lead us to ignorance and selfishness. Two stereotypes that have had profound effects on me throughout my life are centered around my ethnicity and my introversion. 

I am a Japanese-American. This does not mean that I play the violin and piano. This does not mean that I dont know how to drive and cannot pronounce the letter R. This does not mean that I have no trouble in math. Though I have never really identified with Japanese culture or people, I have dealt with Asian stereotypes all my life. These stereotypes, however, are widely used by Asians as well as by people of other races. As more and more Asians treat these stereotypes as jokes that do not hold as much weight, the power is being taken away from others to use them negatively. These stereotypes can still be hurtful and encourage ignorance, but by using them lightly, the threat of others using them in a derogatory fashion has been removed. Using these stereotypes lightly shows that these stereotypes are often unsuitable representations of the majority of the Asian population. 

I am also an introvert. This does not mean that I am lonely, shy, neurotic, sad, or have social anxiety and a dislike for others. This does not mean that I lead a less healthy lifestyle than an extrovert. This does not mean that only a small percentage of people share this trait with me. However, this does mean that I constantly get pressured to act more outgoing. In school, for example, I am regularly put into groups for projects, and my grades rely heavily on speaking in groups. I have never been told to reflect on the material I am learning by myself. I prefer being solitary instead of social activities a lot of the time, so I dont usually find myself being the most talkative in situations with people I dont know very well. However, my behavior is commented on, while my outgoing friends behavior doesn’t get a second thought. There is a stigma that extroverts are the norm, and society is designed to make people act extroverted to succeed. 

However, if society gave equal opportunities to introverts and extroverts, wouldnt society, in turn, be more prosperous? The same goes for gender, race, and religion; if the biases were wiped out, the playing field was evened, and injustice squashed, then society would be more successful. Stereotyping is inevitable, but understanding the groups that one stereotypes and evolving those harmful stereotypes is necessary, and possible. Just how society influences you, you have the power to influence society. Do not change or hide parts of yourself in order to succeed in the confines of society. Do not blindly accept stereotypes and always give in to social pressure. Society is defined by the people in it, and you have the power to shape your path. Be the change you want to see.

-Sachi Kojima