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Racial and Ethnic Groups

William B. Helmreich, in The Things They Say Behind Your Back: Stereotypes and the Myths Behind Them, presents a thorough and fair analysis of social perceptions of racial and ethnic groups. It is important to recognize that not all stereotypes are false and that not all are negative. Helmreich, again, is effective in presenting a balanced picture of these stereotypes, although, of course, his work is meant to shed light on the negative stereotypes which are not true and which lead to suffering on the part of individuals and groups targeted by such bigotry.

Helmreich's book deals with stereotypes about Jews, Italians, Blacks, Japanese, Chinese, Irish, Poles, Wasps (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), and Hispanics. The author shows that stereotypes for some of these groups are balanced between the negative and the positive (Wasps, Chinese, Japanese), while for others the stereotypes are almost wholly negative (Poles, Jews, Blacks, Hispanics).

The important point to keep in mind is that the author does not set out to merely present these stereotypes as they are expressed by bigots or social research, but rather aims to illuminate the roots of these stereotypes and to expose the lies or the truth of those roots.

At times, the study by Helmreich transcends stereotypes and reveals broad truths about a minority group. For example, in his examination of stereotypes about the Chinese, the author writes that the stereotype that this group is associated in the public mind with "high intellectual quality" is an accurate one. But the author goes beyond the surface of this stereotype to tell us deeper truths about the Chinese:

Available demographic data supports this stereotype.

. . . Chinese-Americans were more than twice as likely to have completed college than whites. . . . This is, however, only one side of the picture. At the other end of the scale the Chinese are overrepresented in service occupations. Closer examination...

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Racial and Ethnic Groups. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:07, February 21, 2017, from