'What Would You Do?': Facing the negative impact of 'positive' stereotypes

“What Would You Do?” explores how seemingly harmless comments can sometimes be made at the expense of an entire culture.
9:51 | 07/29/20

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Transcript for 'What Would You Do?': Facing the negative impact of 'positive' stereotypes
For paper, grease or waste breakdown. Use rid-x. Not too bad. I've got one. House or apartment? That's easy -- house! You can't raise a kid in the apartment. Good point. Can you imagine what our kids are going to look like? Oh, they'd be adorable. Our kids are probably going to get into every ivy league school. Why would you say that? Come on. Everybody knows Asian people are really smart. From the protests against racial injustice -- No, you need to leave. You need to leave -- Asian . Oh, my god. -- To the rise in hate incidents targeting Asians since the outbreak of the pandemic, this country is going through a reckoning on race. And an important focus is on microaggressions that Americans of different races confront every day, including stereotypes. You're just being modest. Next you're going to tell me you don't even know karate. Like our actor, Dewey, we've all heard them before. At my school, because I was the only Asian kid in my small town, they looked at me like I'm smart, I know martial arts. I'll have another, please. Sure. Our actor, jamad, has heard them as well. Thanks, man. Can you imagine if we had kids? I mean, naturally, I think they'd be athletic. I went to school on an academic scholarship. I wasn't good at sports. I loved sports, but I was never that good at it. Even seemingly positive stereotypes can negatively impact a person's sense of identity and self-worth. Don't you think that's kind of stereotyping a little bit? If you overheard this conversation -- What, no? It's just a fact. All black people are good at sports. It's just a fact. -- What would you do? We shot this scenario before the pandemic, at the blue moon Mexican cafe, where Sarah is at the bar with jamad. Have you ever thought about what our kids would be like? Sure. Can you imagine how athletic they'll be? Immediately, Sarah's generalization grabs this man's attention. What do you mean by athletic? Come on. Black people are great athletes. Don't you agree, sir? I agree with that. Thank you. At first, it seems like he is siding with Sarah. Don't you think that's just a little stereotypical? Yeah. But I ain't trying to put no lemon on your grapes, you know what I'm saying? This guy's funny. But it turns out, he was actually supporting jamad. It just puts you into this hole. I don't think she meant it like that, but I know exactly where you're coming from. Do you think it's wrong to say that? You should've broadened the scope, because we've been hearing that a long time. And when you hear that a long time, people think our value is just that. I just feel like black people are also just better at sports. Your kids still can end up being doctors or lawyers or anything if that's what their head is about. Time to introduce ourselves. How you doing, my man? How are you doing? I'm John Quinones. I know who you are! I've seen -- you saw your face. How you doing? What did you think of it? I thought she was trying to give him a perk, but she used the wrong language. People sometimes make the wrong assumptions. Yes. Sometimes they don't think before they speak. Sarah is back at the bar, but this time, with Dewey as her date. I just think mixed babies are the best. They get the best of both worlds. As the conversation takes an unexpected turn, these customers are tuned in. Like, they would go to ivy league schools, and get really good grades, be super disciplined. Like you. Do you really believe that? Yeah, everybody knows that. Asian people are really smart. It's common knowledge! At a loss for words, this fellow Asian helps Dewey fill the silence. I mean, I happen to be a smart Asian, be that doesn't mean all of them are. That's exactly my point. Thank you! I'm agreeing with him on this one. I mean, do you think this is rude? I think it's nice to say he's smart, but I wouldn't go and say all Asians. She explains that Sarah's statements set up unrealistic expectations, resulting in people feeling like failures. What happens when you have an Asian person that's not making as high of marks and then they feel bad about themselves? Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Her friend points out that stereotypes can alienate an individual. I guess what she's getting at is it "Others" people. You know, if my baby has intelligence and beautiful skin and never look old, I think it's a great thing. What, Asian don't raisin? That's a good one! I know black don't crack but I've never heard of Asian don't raisin. Despite finding the comment amusing -- all right, let's do this. Let's go out there. She understands the pressure that comes with stereotypes. It just makes you feel awkward because you feel like you're representing an entire culture, when really it's individualized. Asian people are really smart. It's not a bad thing. It's a really good thing. I thought it was a little offense. What? Is come on. It is. These next two friends use their own experiences to reason with Sarah. Here's a compliment that is usually assumed about Jews. All Jews are either doctors or lawyers. It's a compliment. It's a really good thing. Some people take offense to stereotypes, some people don't. Right. There are stereotypes about everyone, but it's not really necessarily true. Let me twist it on you. You know how they say a stereotypical blond is dumb? But like, that would be insulting, right? Like, to say someone's smart, it's not. Yeah, but it's spinning a stereotype. You're putting them in a little box and assuming that's what they are. She even suggests a better way for Sarah to phrase the statement. I mean, you could have just been like, hey, you're really smart. Our kids are going to be smart. As the day goes on, some customers give Sarah the benefit of the doubt. Our kids would be smart. It's not a bad thing, it's a compliment. That's a good thing. It's a good thing. Really? It's a good thing. Take it. You don't want your kids to not be smart. I think it's just a little generalizing. Yeah, I mean, we all do it. But I understand if it bothered you. This next customer also agrees with Sarah. How is this a bad thing? It's a compliment, 100%. You don't think that's, like, a stereotype? Look at you. You're looking like athlete, come on. That's stereotyping though. Right. What did you think about what they were saying? He got a compliment and he took it to the wrong side. Stereotypes -- most of the time it's true. What about the times it's not true? That can be insulting to some people. I agree. That's life. Jamad is at the bar one last time. There's a reason why most athletes are black. Immediately, their conversation catches the attention of this woman. Do you hear yourself? It's a good thing. I'm complimenting you. And her face says it all. I really don't know how to explain this to you right now. Like, I'm speechless. Tell Sarah, "Yes, maybe you should go." Do you mind just giving me a break? Okay, sorry. But once jamad is alone -- I don't think they get it. But do you understand, like, where I'm coming from? Well, hello. She calmly reassures him, implying that some people just don't know any better. I don't think any offense was meant. It's just a cultural disconnect. From my perspective, I just kind of hold my ground and I educate. And when Sarah returns, this educator stays true to form. There's so many stereotypes and assumptions. My kid went to muhlenberg college, he just happened to play football and the assumption was okay, he got a football scholarship. And I'm like, "No, he got an academic scholarship." She explains that positive stereotypes are generally tied to negative ones. But isn't it true a lot and isn't it a good thing? Not if that's what we rest our laurels on. And for black Americans, it's a burden they still carry every day. If you're talking about having kids -- biracial, you better look at another perspective, because today, I don't care how cute they are, I heard you, they're going to be called the n-word, you understand? And it's going to trip you. Wow, they're going to be called the n-word, your kids. I was just celebrating the really good things. No, no, no. Listen, I get it. Understand what I'm saying, you don't have to defend it. You know, we kind of stereotype, too, in our own way because we're human beings. Hi, there. How are you? I'm John Quinones, from the TV show, "What would you do?" They're actors. No! You wanted to educate her? Well, I also wanted to support the young man, because I understand how he felt. And again, sometimes it's a cultural disconnect, sometimes it's flat out racism. How do we fix it? Educating our children to be proud, move forward. And stereotypes are not acceptable. For many people, like jamad and Dewey, the stigma of positive stereotypes very often deprives them of their own individuality. When I was younger more so. People presumed certain things? People presumed because I am fit, or, you know, work out a little bit. Now I'm just like, this is who I am, you know, take me as I am. What's the solution to not presuming certain things? Get to know me as a person. And it kind of gives you just a

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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