Kevin Kai-Wen Wu, better known as kevjumba, is one of the many people who has successfully become a celebrity by posting videos on Youtube. His videos are usually on topics varying from girls to stereotypes to his dad, Mr Wu. The video above is about how his dad gets awkward around his African-American friends. (Check out his dad’s reactions to his friends. It’s hilarious!)

What caught my attention in this video was how Kevin’s friends were seen by Mr Wu. We all know that certain stereotypes still exist about particular groups of people, including African-Americans. I’m sure the world likes to think that it has progressed nicely past all these stereotypes but sadly, stereotyping still exists.

In this case, specifically, ethnic stereotype.

Ethnic stereotype is defined as a generalised representation of an ethnic group, composed of what are thought to be typical characteristics of members of the group. (Wikipedia)

For example, in the “Awkward” video, it shows Mr Wu’s reaction upon seeing his son’s black friends. He was clearly uncomfortable and the video then shows how he sees Kevin’s friends to be like. It shows one of them drinking and the other with a gun, and these are some of the characteristics that people usually relate to black people.

Mr Wu’s reaction follows the social constructionist model. His association of alcoholism and gun violence with black people is built around the fact that this is how they are usually portrayed by the media. When something as influential as the media starts to portray a group of people in a certain way, other people are bound to believe this portrayal, whether they be true or not.

Of course, I’m not saying that the media is solely responsible for the stereotypes of African-Americans. These stereotypes date back to the colonial years of settlement in America, when black people were made to be slaves to the whites. So as you can see, the African-American stereotypes have existed for many years. You would think that now, being in the 21st century, these stereotypes would not be common anymore. People are more educated and we have learnt that all races are equal and no one race is superior to the other.

However, the fact that we can still see this stereotype happening on television shows or movies just proves that the world has not made much progress at all. According to the Entman-Rojecki Index of Race and Media, 89% of black female movie characters are shown using vulgar language, compared to only 17% of white women. In addition, black women are portrayed as being violent in movies 56% of the time as opposed to only 11% of white women.

Now tell me, how do you expect the stereotypes of African-Americans to be eradicated when the media continuously show them in a negative light?

This can also be linked to the cultural studies perspective, where there is a close relationship between acts of communication and power. Television shows and other media forms that encourage these stereotypes persuade people to actually believe in them, even though they are false. This is not only in the case of African-American stereotypes but also other forms of stereotypes such as gender and sexual stereotypes.

Hence, people should be aware that the stereotypes that may exist of a particular group should not affect the way we see them. Everyone should be treated equally in this world – it just makes for a better place.



10 responses to “Awkward

  1. Wow, nicely done.

    Narrowing down your topic to something that’s closer to home, I’d like to bring up ethnic stereoptyping in Singapore. We’re well-known to be a multi-racial country to that is respectful to people of all races and religions, and that’s true, but only to a certain extent. Being someone who is part of a minority ethnic group in Singapore don’t you sometimes feel sidelined by others, particularly those who make up the majority race in this country?

    For example, let’s look at MM Lee’s recent comments about the Malay-Muslim community here; he said that “we can integrate all religions and races except Islam”. Why? Apparently, it’s because we don’t inter-marry enough and during lunchtime we don’t sit together with other races because we’re so afraid that their non-halal germs will contaminate our food. Like… whaaaat…?

    I’m probably a little too offended here to give a fair judegement of what he really meant, and a part of me knows that he probably means well. But my point is that eradicating ethnic stereotyping starts with not making comments that you know will offend others.

    Yeah. Uh, thats all (:

    • Thanks Hazimah for your comment. To answer your question, yes i do feel sidelined at times. People always say that Singapore is a country that’s tolerant of all races and religion but being a minority here, it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. I get the feeling that some people are just forced to get along with others who are of different races and religion because it would be inconvenient not to. Obviously no one wants to cause trouble with another person, especially when it concerns that person’s race or religion because then it would become too much of an issue.

      Singapore might be a country that prides itself on its ability to have a multiracial society where its people are tolerant of each other but if you take a second look, that “ability” might not entirely be true.

  2. TheycallmeKenneth

    This is by far the most fun I’ve had reading a communications post, simply because I’m already a fan of Kevjumba haha! Nice idea of using this particular video, saw this before but the theory perception didn’t strike me. I definitely agree with what you’re saying, stereotyping exists in America, where blacks were once slaves and whites were leaders. And when we think of African Americans we think of hip hop music, guns, vulgarities. I suppose it’s because of those american sitcoms and hollywood movies, our sources to their life. Great read!

  3. Thanks Kenneth! I’m a fan of him too, and his dad. :D

    Yeah if you think about it, many television shows and movies in America always seem to portray African-Americans as violent people who engage in drinking and drugs. I just don’t get it. Is it so hard to accept the fact that African-Americans are no longer thought to be inferior to the whites?

  4. Hidayah

    People don’t generally deal well with people/things that are different from who they are or what they’re used to. Most of the time, they distance themselves from the unfamiliar. And instead of trying to familiarise themselves, people make assumptions based on the very little things they know. And then comes external influences like the people around them and the media. Because of their lack of personal interaction with a certain ethnic group, they assume what is portrayed in the media is true.

    Stereotyping exists everywhere. Although we hate to admit it, all of us have a preconceived opinion about at least one group of people (not necessarily an ethnic group). It is only human nature. The only thing we can do to make up for it is to treat them fairly despite of it.

    • I agree with you on how external factors can influence us so much on how we think of a certain group of people. It could be the society we are in, the way we were brought up, or the media. These factors play such an important role in our lives that sometimes we are not even aware that they are influencing our mindsets on certain things.

  5. Kevin is so adorable! :D

    Okay back to your post about stereotypes. I feel that we can’t just blame people who have these stereotypical thoughts on the African-American people. They themselves needs to break out from these actions. Take for example a typical african-american rapper music video, most of the time girls with skimpy clothes, extreme amount of ‘bling’, profanities, guns and violence can be seen in the video. I believe if you want others to change the stereotypical views, the person/group affected should break out of the stereotype first.

    • “They themselves needs to break out from these actions.”

      I definitely agree with you on this. It’s pretty ridiculous to expect others to change their judgments about ourselves when we are acting in a way that strengthens the stereotypical view of how others see us. If we constantly act in a certain way, how do we expect others to change their perceptions of us?

      Overall, I think that it’s basically a two-way thing. Each party has to make an effort in changing all these stereotypical views. If only one group is doing something about it, it won’t be all that effective and it’s back to square one all over again.

  6. Never watched Kevjumba vlogs before but good introduction -this video’s hilarious!

    In the interesting video that you displayed, Mr Wu’s exaggerated stereotypical perspective of Blacks displays how racial discrimination among Blacks exist. This includes his assumption of them being thugs with guns and having the intention to steal.

    Stereotyping exists in many parts of the world. There will always be prejudice in the world because everybody is brought up differently. The only way to counter prejudice is through education as it stems from ignorance.

    • You should watch more of his videos! They’re all really funny. :D

      I do agree with what you said about educating people about prejudice. However, to some extent, I think if a certain group of people is firmly set on their beliefs about another group, even education possibly wouldn’t do much good. It takes a lot more to change prejudices and stereotypes I think.

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