Sunday, April 7, 2019

Taking on Orientalism as a Westerner

It is easy to fall into an orientalist mindset. The Oak Park/Chicago area has a lot of diversity, but our community does not have many people from the Middle East. Therefore, our main exposure to these people and cultures is through the stereotypes presented in the media. We see countless images of Middle Eastern people as terrorists or dangerous. The women from the region are depicted as submissive, and all the people are portrayed as not having the capability of the complex thought that we, as Westerners, supposedly come by naturally. 

These stereotypes could not be further to the truth, but the only way for us to fully understand the truth is to educate ourselves. Few people in our community maintain racist or sexist ideologies once they are exposed to the depths and diversity of people, cultures, races, etc that they had never met before. My sister is adopted from China and I have spent much of my life taking on stereotypes that people make about Chinese people, as I knew they were false first hand. Simply because we might not have direct access to people from this region or live there ourselves, that is no excuse for us to take a backseat in dismantling this outdated ideology of Orientalism. 

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