In our textbook, prejudice is defined as: ” a form of thinking whereby anindividual forms an unfavorable attitude directed towards groups of people,based on insufficient or incorrect evidence about these groups”.
Prejudicehas been a part of society for as long as society has been. There are manydifferent theories on the reasons for why people form prejudices. The theory ofsocial categorization states that it is human nature to put people intocategories based on certain characteristics. Which is also how we formstereotypes. Stereotypes give us a preconceived notion of how people of acertain group are going to act before we have experienced it firsthand. Basically, stereotypes are generalizations.
They may apply to some members of aparticular group but definitely not everyone. Another theory, illusorycorrelation, states that we tend to notice unusual behavior that occurs inminority groups rather than the same behavior that would occur in a majoritygroup. The theory that I find most interesting is the social-identity theory,which states that people are prejudice in order to increase there self-esteem bybelieving that other groups are inferior to them. After reading about all thedifferent reasons for prejudice, I believe that it is a combination of all thetheories mentioned above. I also strongly believe that the way a person isbrought up strongly ties into their beliefs. If a child is brought up listeningto his/hers parents talking negatively about a certain group of people it oftenleads to the child having the same beliefs as their parents.
Another possiblecause is if someone has a bad or traumatizing experience. For instance, ifsomeone is robbed by a person of a different race they may than believe thateveryone of that race is a thief and therefore they form a prejudice againstthat group of people. Experience is an important factor in why some peoplebecome prejudice or not. Imagine you have grown up on a farm in Idaho yourentire life. You have never seen or met an African American person first hand,but your whole life you have been told that they are terrible people who dealdrugs and murder innocent people. Although they have never experienced themfirsthand, automatically this person will have a negative outlook on that groupof people.
The point I am trying to make is that your different experiences andwhat you have been taught plays a big role in the prejudices that you will form. Usually if you are immersed by all different kinds of people and have knownpeople from all different cultures, you will tend to have a more open mind. Ignorance is the biggest reason for why we form prejudices in the first place. If we think back to the fifties and sixties, the amount of prejudice and racialdiscrimination has been reduced dramatically. However, as much as society triesto stress the importance of equality there is still a great amount ofdiscrimination still going on in the world. So, how can we reduce prejudiceeffectively? I believe that a major part in this process is educating peoplefrom young ages about prejudice and how they need to be open to all types ofpeople.
Schools need to be culturally diversified so that child can experienceother types of people firsthand. I know that isn’t as easy as it sounds,especially when we put into perspective financial situations and where schoolsare located, but I think it is important that from a young age that peopleexperience all types of cultures. Another way to educate people is by stressingthat people are all different, whether it is from the way they dress or they waythat they talk. Instead of looking down at other people’s differences we need tobe taught to celebrate them. In conclusion, I believe that prejudice issomething that still plagues our society.
I feel that it has definitely hasimproved over time and if things keep progressing, prejudice could possiblycease to exist in the future. As long as we keep educating our children andsociety, I think we are heading towards the right track.