A racial stereotype is a depiction of an ethnicity or race based on tropes and clichés. Stereotypes are harmful because they reduce the complexity of real people and erase individuality, agency and power.
Stereotyping can include ‘blackface’ and ‘yellowface’, where actors or dancers change the colour of their skin or their appearance to portray a person from a different race, or affect stylised (often racist) mannerisms or accents.
Often the aim is to evoke a whole race, rather than a particular character, and racial stereotyping can work to trap real individuals within the confines of a white construction of their race.
A linked concept to stereotyping is that of ‘whitewashing’ – the practice of casting white people to play characters from a different culture, typically when the character will be imbued with dignity, nuance or relatability. Whitewashing erases the presence of people of colour, and transfers their history, culture and experience into white custody.