Messages, Meat-eaters and Mental Models — Oh My!

Why our changing world demands rethinking common stereotypes

Look at my picture. No, really, look. Okay. Now you can read on. But before you do, let me get a few stereotypes out of the way that may be running in your head about me. First, I don’t know karate, kung fu, tae kwon do or any other martial art. I’ve never owned or worked at a laundromat, or a restaurant. I can’t give you a manicure, and guys, you definitely don’t want me tailoring your clothes. And while I enjoy math and science, I am not an engineer and Newton’s three laws of motion are about as deep as I go when discussing physics.

If you are like most people, you had a reaction to the Asian stereotypes noted above. Some of you laughed or giggled. Others of you may have bristled, thinking a diversity professional like myself should know better than to mention race-based stereotypes. I’m pretty darn sure none of you had a clue what I was talking about — you’ve heard the stereotypes before. When you react to these stereotypes, whether positive or negative, it tells me (and it should tell you) that you have these stereotypes (or mental models) in your head about people we call Asians. I have the same mental model in my head.

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