Take Off the Distorted Lenses: A Discovery of Stereotyping the Wealthy Businessmen in China

Delta Winds cover 2005Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Take Off the Distorted Lenses: A Discovery of Stereotyping the Wealthy Businessmen in China

Bixian Liao

For a long time, I intentionally distanced myself from the wealthy businessmen in China. In the early 1980s, private business ownership became permitted. The population of wealthy businessmen grew dramatically. They showed off their newfound wealth by wildly driving their expensive BMWs on the street and constructing palatial houses in good neighborhoods. Most of these newly emerged wealthy business owners were married, but in public, they behaved as if they were not married. Whenever I saw a BMW dashing down the street, I would imagine the driver was a wealthy businessman. Like his colleagues, the driver feverishly lived a licentious life. He would flirt with young girls in restaurants and nightclubs, deceive his wife with no scruples, and even discard his family for good. Once he was free from the so-called distasteful marriage and expensive obligations of childrearing, he would indulge himself in a luxurious life with younger, prettier women and leave his poor aging wife and children in misery. With this imaginary wealthy businessman fixed in my mind, I concluded, "Wealthy businessmen are immoral and deceitful. Keep away from them." I thought holding this prejudice could protect me from despair, so I never felt the need to discover where it came from and whether or not it was justified, until I read Dr. Ruggiero's book.

Not until reading Vincent R. Ruggiero's Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking did I recognize that this image of wealthy businessmen in China had been carved into my mind for years. Like glasses with "serious distorted lenses" (94) obstructing me from seeing the world accurately, the stereotype hindered me from thinking critically and thus attaining the utmost self-improvement that "can affect every area of [my] life so positively" (151).

Dr. Ruggiero correctly points out that family members, especially parents, more or less influence our present views (5). Another psychologist, Gordon W. Allport, concludes, "In every society on earth the child is regarded as a member of his parents group . . . .The child is ordinarily expected to acquire his parents' loyalties and prejudices" (35). My mother dislikes dishonest men because she firmly believes that they are creatures submitted to evil desires. She says they will never be caring husbands or responsible fathers. As soon as I was considered mature enough to know about dating, my mother explained her expectations of my future husband. First, he should not be too wealthy because possessing too much money would provide him power and access to other women. Second, he should make his family top priority and be faithful to his wife. By using her own experience with my irresponsible father as an example, my mother cautioned me to stay away from men who even slightly exhibited characteristics of irresponsibility or dishonesty; otherwise, I would get hurt and live a miserable life. From then on, I stayed aware and carefully examined the men I met, trying to avoid getting involved with a negligent and or corrupt man.

Nevertheless, reality is not always predictable. I once fell in love with a small business owner in China. When our relationship began, he was working full-time as a statistician in the same company with me while working part-time on his small business. Six months later, he quit his full-time job and concentrated his energy solely on his business. His company grew dramatically while our love went in the opposite direction. He was able to employ seven people and purchase a car and a minivan, which many wage-earning people could not afford at that time. When, coincidentally, I found out he was dating another girl, I was heartbroken. I decided to break up with him. Three months later he married a girl who he had impregnated. Despite this change in events, he still came to my house, saying something that he should not have said to me but to his wife the night before his wedding. Ever since I broke up with him, no other wealthy businessmen could gain my trust. I believed they were all the same as him: adulterous.

After I worked for a prosperous and well-educated boss who deceived his wife with a young girl, I further adhered to the perception of all wealthy businessmen as adulterous. According to Dr. Ruggiero, overgeneralization is "to ascribe to all the members of a group what fits only some member . . . . A stereotype is an overgeneralization that is especially resistant to change" (109). My behavior of perceiving all wealthy businessmen as disloyal to their wives fit the definition of stereotype for two reasons. First, I had not considered changing my view for twelve years. Second, it was based on just a few examples, which were mostly drawn from my limited personal experience. Dr. Ruggiero points out that our confidence about our personal experience "can cause us to attach greater significance and universality to particular events than they deserve" (65). I personally know fewer than a dozen wealthy men, and there are thousands of wealthy businessmen in China. Are they all adulterous? Can I conclude they are all adulterous based on a few examples? Ruggiero's answer is no: "it takes more than one or a few examples to support a generalization; for sweeping generalization, even a dozen may not be enough" (65).

However, I found it difficult to ignore my personal experiences. A year ago, I had an unpleasant conversation with my boyfriend about his plans for a career in business. When he asked me about business as a major for him, I refused to allow it. I told him that if he became rich, he would dump me. He argued how could I be a businesswoman yet he could not become a businessman. When he persisted, I threatened to break off the relationship.

Dr. Ruggiero states that both "overgeneralizations and stereotypes hinder critical thinking because they prevent us from seeing the differences among people within groups" (110). From what he says, I did not think critically and see the difference between my boyfriend and my wanton image of businessmen. It led to my irrational behavior toward him and resulted in the unnecessary quarrel. Ruggiero suggests that critical thinkers should base "judgments on evidence rather than personal preferences, [defer] judgment whenever evidence is insufficient [and] revise judgments when new evidence reveals error" (19). To become a critical thinker, I should base my judgment toward the wealthy businessmen on sufficient evidence and stop stereotyping them, especially after my stereotyping was revealed as an error of thinking.

Obviously, to use critical thinking effectively is a formidable challenge. It will take continuing effort over a long period of time, as Ruggiero says, but the challenge is worthwhile because thinking is so important in everyday life (151). I am currently pursuing my bachelor's degree, and almost every course I have taken has required critical thinking skills. According to Dr. Ruggiero, "[Business] and professional leaders stress that proficiency in thinking is necessary to solve problems and make decisions on the job" (151). I plan to enter the business field in the United States after graduation, and I want to be prepared for the job. Critical thinking skills are essential in handling the challenges I will encounter in the competitive business world. In addition, many psychologists consider thinking skills crucial in our personal lives (Ruggiero 151), and the quarrel between my boyfriend and me proves they are correct. In order to be a critical thinker, I am ready to correct the distorted image I used to have of wealthy businessmen in China. I can't wait to apologize to my boyfriend, and I envision his understanding smile and loving hug.

Work Cited

Ruggiero, Vincent R. Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2003.