The Trouble With Make Me a “Stereotype” » ADL Blogs
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January 11, 2013 0

The Trouble With Make Me a “Stereotype”

Appli­ca­tions for smart­phones and tablets have become an emerg­ing seg­ment of the online and enter­tain­ment indus­try.  As with videos, blogs and social net­work­ing plat­forms which came before, Apps are now being cre­ated that some con­sider funny, but which  actu­ally cross the line from humor­ous to offen­sive.  Recent exam­ples include two free apps on Google called “Make Me Asian” and “Make Me Indian,” that allow users to edit pho­tos in ways which play on racist stereo­types. Users of the app can darken skin color, change eye shape to an “Asian” slant or add eth­nic acces­sories like an Amer­i­can Indian head­dress.

Young chil­dren often make fun of Asian Amer­i­can class­mates by pulling their eyes to make a slant or play “Indian,” com­plete with head­dress or a “war-cry.” As adults, this is the very kind of think­ing we try to chal­lenge in our chil­dren.  We want them to under­stand and respect dif­fer­ent cul­tures, not belit­tle or ridicule them or make assump­tions about all mem­bers of a group based on com­mon stereo­types.  We teach them that every­one has dif­fer­ent phys­i­cal fea­tures, qual­i­ties and char­ac­ter­is­tics that have noth­ing to do with the groups to which they belong.

Stereo­types make over­sim­pli­fied gen­er­al­iza­tions about peo­ple or groups with­out regard for indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences. The prob­lem is that these gen­er­al­iza­tions soon become beliefs about groups which form  the build­ing blocks for prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion, fea­tures of life that have seri­ous impli­ca­tions for us all.  Apps like “Make Me Asian” and “Make Me Indian” and a score of oth­ers built on this con­cept play on per­ni­cious stereo­types that mar­gin­al­ize indi­vid­u­als and groups. Though the global com­mu­nity is racially and eth­ni­cally diverse, these kinds of apps pro­mote the kind of think­ing that being white is the norm and every­thing else is defined as “other.”

As a soci­ety, we spend much of our time inter­act­ing through our mobile devices, but when we choose so-called enter­tain­ment that rein­forces these kinds of stereo­types, we have to con­sider whether we might be con­tribut­ing to the per­pet­u­a­tion of the inci­vil­ity that lim­its everyone’s opportunities.

The Anti-Defamation League strives to remain vig­i­lant of emerg­ing issues in our dig­i­tal world and com­mu­ni­cates reg­u­larly with many of the major com­pa­nies on issues that are raised by the community.