As an international student at JIM from Kuwait, I get a lot of follow-up questions and surprised looks when asked where I’m from. Over time, I have received a wide-range of questions but I am almost always asked about my experience Of living in an Arab country. This past weekend, someone jokingly asked me if my dad owned oil mines and camels in Kuwait, which got me thinking, is this because of the various stereotypes associated with the Arab community in America? Since ASSAI is an Indian association, it is obvious that membership is limited to those who are Indian.
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However, a distinct feature of the association is that many Indians on amp’s believe that ASSAI is a separate clique, and you can only be a part of it if you have friends in the association already. A unique type of grouping is at play here; just being Indian is not sufficient to be a part of an Indian cultural organization. Some social psychology concepts that are applicable to this phenomenon include self-censorship, which is the tendency to withhold information or opinions in-group discussions.
Evaluation apprehension, defined as people’s concern about how they might appear in the eyes of others or, in other words, about being evaluated can be applied here as well. Identification is the perceived loss of individuality and personal responsibility that can occur when someone participates as part of a group. It can have both positive as well as negative effects, for instance, cause a person to be more likely to donate a large amount of money to charity, but also cause them to be more likely to engage in mob violence. Group cohesiveness is the strength of the liking and commitment group members have toward each other and to the group.
The social psychology concept of stereotypes; generalizations about groups of people in which certain traits re assigned to virtually all members of the groups, regardless of actual variation among the members, is illustrated in the second phenomenon. In fact, a report titled “100 Years of Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim stereotyping” specifies the three B syndrome’ (Bombers, belly dancers or billionaires) in the Arab community, in reference to Arab men being portrayed as terrorists or as wealthy oilmen and Arab women being portrayed as sex objects.
Racism, defined as an individual’s prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behavior toward people of a given race, is a feature of this phenomenon. Stereotype threat, which means being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s group, is a social psychological concept applied here too. Victims of stereotyping can suffer from attribution ambiguity, not knowing whether performance feedback is genuine or based on their group membership.
One of my friends on board of ASSAI told me about how their board meetings worked: everyone seemed to agree to whatever the President had to say and this was very strange to her, since ideally they should discuss issues from every possible point view, rather Han a skewed, one-dimensional view in which people withhold their opinions. This sounded a lot like self-censorship to me. Evaluation apprehension is also relevant since choosing to be a part of it, or not, is almost completely based on how others will view you- whether you want to be a part of the ‘clique’ of people that is ASSAI, or not.
Most social organizations have many traits that make them conducive to identification. In the case of ASSAI, identification may not seem as extreme as fraternities or sororities in which members wear clothing marked with their “letters”, but strong drive towards group cohesiveness does exist. In fact, many Indians on campus actually believe that ASSAI is a ‘cult’, a group of people that is always seen together, no matter what. Following the September 1 1, 2001 attacks in the United States, discrimination and reclaimed violence has markedly increased against Arab Americans.
This is also reflected in common stereotypes that Arabs are ‘barbaric, oil-rich sheikhs’ or more extreme ones believing that all Arabs are terrorists/villains. In light of these, some Arabs suffer from stereotype threat, and hence they might hide their wealth or tatty because they are afraid of affirming a stereotype that exists about their group – that all Arabs are rich and Arab women are beautiful, and beauty is all they care about.
Such actions might make them feel ashamed of something they should actually be proud of. Attribution ambiguity can lead Arabs to feel uncertainty about whether negative outcomes are due to discrimination against them or their own behavior. In comparison, they might discredit positive feedback as a form of sympathy rather than seeing it as the result of their ability and achievement.