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A Negative Social Phenomenon: Prejudice

People tend to form the opinions about others in the society. Individuals can see a stranger on the street and easily criticize the way he/she looks or acts. The truth is that this social phenomenon is called prejudice, which is typical for the majority of human beings. As social creatures people are likely to assess others. The other side of the moon, however, is that prejudice is rarely innocent as it seems to be. In fact, in many cases prejudice becomes a socially harmful feature, which makes society degrade instead of evolving. This paper will try to prove that prejudice is a negative social phenomenon, and that the communities should join efforts to avoid its development for the peaceful interaction and communication.

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The definition of prejudice is a positive or a negative perception or belief about a group of people without evaluating their personalities. It is "a set of attitudes which causes, supports, or justifies discrimination. Prejudice refers to a tendency to "over categorize." (Farley 18). People, who hold prejudice, tend to react to individuals in a predetermined manner. If to define the phenomenon as a specific society disease, it can be clearly characterized by a set of symptoms. The first and most significant symptom of prejudice is discrimination of different kinds. Discrimination means unjustified limiting of rights based on a particular feature of appearance or behavior, which unites a group of people. The limitation of privileges is a result of negative thinking about the group. According to experts, the mechanism of projection is “Almost invariably, the negative and 'base' characteristics that bigots try to pin on others is an unconscious projection of primitive tendencies present in them, as they are in all individuals” (Bloom n.p.). In other words, discrimination is an index of people, who are perceived to be low in the scale of civilization.

The second symptom is stereotyping. “A stereotype is a simplified assumption about a group based on prior assumptions” (Cherry para.3). In other words, stereotyping is building an image, which is grounded in a stable representation of members of a particular social group. In fact, people make generalized conclusions based on limited knowledge or influence of the external factors. On the one hand, stereotyping helps achieve cognitive comfort because it simplifies the process of creating an image of another person. On the other hand, this mechanism can distort the real character, which can lead to forming the prejudice as a result of the wrong assessment.

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There are numerous well-known types of prejudice based on race, sex, sexual orientations, nationality, age, etc. Homophobia, for example, is a prejudice that discriminates sex minorities. Unfortunately, homophobia is spread even in the countries where gay marriage is allowed. Religious prejudice appears because of the incorrect perception of a particular religion. For example, September 11 lead to preconceived attitude towards Muslims in the United States because of the fact terrorist followed Islam. The most typical and wide-spread form of discrimination is racism. The example for personal experience is an unpleasant situation: once my family decided to have dinner at a high-grade restaurant. A Caucasian waiter came to us to take our order, but we have not chosen yet. He thought we did not speak English, as we are Chinese, which is the reason he asked another waiter, who spoke Chinese to wait on us. To my mind, such action was disrespectful to us; I did not appreciate that behavior. Although many Chinese in San Francisco hardly speak fluent English, it does not mean all Chinese do not know the language.

Prejudice is a cancer on the body of society, but why people form preconceptions every day. An interesting experiment was carried out by Hartley. He researched people’s attitude towards different ethnic groups such as “"Danireans," "Pirraneans," and "Wallonians." The results were that “people who were antagonistic towards blacks and Jews were also antagonistic toward these three groups.” (Minority Studies section II, para.2). The major point is that three mentioned groups are fictitious that leads to a conclusion that individuals can find reasons for prejudice in the descriptions of people’s characteristics.

People with an authoritarian personality are very often likely to build prejudice. The character of authoritarian people is often the result of improper upbringing: strict childhood, strong authority in the family, repressed and limited emotions. According to Denmar College, “people with an authoritarian personality are unable to view their parents critically” (II, para. 13). Children in such families are unable to express frustration towards the authority figures, which are the source of the negative emotions. Thus, they practice it on others. Finally, lack of knowledge about particular group can be the cause of prejudice because people are often suspicious and speculative about the unknown.

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As mentioned in the essay, prejudice is based on the lack of knowledge about groups and people’s internal problem. Society should remember that smart, well-educated and broadminded person never judges without collecting data. Moreover, in order to maintain the mental health of society, authorities have to be involved into the creating the educational measures about tolerance. In addition, communities should introduce anti-prejudice laws to make tolerance and absence of discrimination a rule to follow. Each individual has to contribute for building a healthy society together.

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