To be perfectly honest with you, I have a hard time thinking of a stereotype that can be made positive. There might be some that are not as harmful as others, but still are quite negative because in their nature, stereotypes are not true depictions of people but imagined ones. And personally, I don’t know of any stereotype that truly characterizes all people of that stereotyped group, whether positive or negative, because in the end, people are individuals entitled to their own opinions, beliefs and practices. For instance, some people think I’m a musician or singer because of my hair. Now, that’s not such a bad thought, and I do enjoy playing the guitar and singing… but if someone concludes that I am something that I am not just by looking at my hair, that also implies that they can’t or are not interested in seeing me as who I really am. This issue of agency or lack of is a detrimental issue among those who come from postcolonial countries, those who have definitely been negatively affected by stereotyping as it often manifests to racism and xenophobia.
If asked this question again today, I would answer the same but thanks to Ernestine Johnson, I know how using art, such as spoken word, can be used to pronounce and reverse stereotypes by basically owning the stereotype. “I’m not the average black girl… I can only aspire to me.”
The power of her poem is just mind boggling, and judging by the comments, shares and “likes” I received after posting the video on my Facebook wall, this power was felt beyond national, racial, ethnic, religious and gender boundaries. The video below is a MUST SEE!!