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Prejudice and discrimination

The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice, Clint Eastwood.

Do not be prejudiced. As our mind deceives us when we believe that one line is longer than the other, it also makes us think that those -and also naturally, us- who belong to our group (ingroup, those who share the same sex, social group, age, ethnicity, religion, nationality, etc. with us) are better than members of the outgroup (those from the opposite sex, different social group, religion, age, etc.).  Appearances are often deceiving

Appearances are often deceiving

It also tricks us into seeing all members of the outgroup as quite similar amongst themselves. You may have heard statements, such as “women only care about money and men only want sex and their freedom”, “all Germans are rude and cold”, “French are arrogant and smug”, etc.

What does it take to produce discrimination amongst groups?

It has been demonstrated that very little is needed indeed. The mere categorization or grouping of individuals into groups, even for arbitrary reasons, without any logic whatsoever, is more than enough. Thus, experiments were performed using different criteria, such as eye color (blue and brown eyes), shirt color, pure chance (head versus tails), etc.

The results were always the same, we all favor our groups, we all value members from our community, religion, country, etc. much more than those in the other group. Besides, prejudice is exacerbated by competition for scarce resources!

Let’s delve in a little deeper.

What is prejudice?

Allport defined prejudice in “The Nature of Prejudice” (1977), as “a feeling, favourable or unfavourable, towards a person or thing, prior to, or not based on, actual experience.” We also think of it as “any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence.”

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Attitudes are predispositions to think and act in certain ways. They have three components:

  1. The cognitive component of attitude includes the way that we perceive the attitude’s object and the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs about it. We are talking about stereotypes. A stereotype is the set of beliefs that we hold about others. They are fixed, oversimplified ideas and assumptions held by many about groups of people: “men are stronger, faster, and more aggressive,” “women are nurturing, sensitive, and caring,” “male homosexuals are promiscuous.”
  2. The affective component of attitude refers to feelings or emotions caused by the attitude’s object and can be positive or negative, favorable or unfavorable. Prejudice is part of this emotional component.
  3. Attitude’s behavioral component is the tendency or predisposition to act in certain ways in relation to the attitude’s object. Prejudice refers to thoughts and feelings, while discrimination refers to actions. Unlike prejudice and stereotypes, which are internal concepts which we cannot directly observe, discrimination is observable and verifiable.

Discrimination refers to overt acts of individuals. However, the modern man or woman wants to project a positive and “democratic” image of himself or herself. Therefore, people tend to respond to expectations more as a result of their social desirability than their true feelings.

Furthermore, modern prejudice is more subtle. It is still linked to the existence of negative feelings toward outgroups, but with certain restrictions. These feelings are not of hatred and open hostility, as we imagine the Ku Klux Klan’s attacks on black Americans, but rather of discomfort, insecurity, and even fear that leads to avoidance of contact with the outgroup rather than the manifestation of destructive or hostile actions towards them.

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness, Anne Frank

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness, Anne Frank

It is observable in people who perceive their victims as inherently different and incapable of integrating into society and sharing the dominant group’s values. Thus, Muslims are often accused of being sexist, homophobic, and enemies of free-speech because of excessive religiosity.

Gypsies are said not to share traditional values regarding the importance of work and maintaining a harmonious family, and be used to live off welfare. This racism plunges its victims into poverty, exclusion, economic inequality, and social injustice. In the case of immigrants, this justifies the demands for expulsion.

Diversity is a richness, not a threat

Diversity is a richness, not a threat

It should be noted that prejudice and discrimination are everywhere and fighting against them will not be easy.

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