Reflective Essay-Prejudice/Discrimination

In the modern world, there is a direct link between prejudice and discrimination.  Prejudice is defined as the unjustified negative attitudes that some people hold against others of a certain group of people.  Prejudice can include attitudes such as sexism, racism, homophobia, and religious persecution.  Prejudices are pre-formed and have no reasonable basis.  Discrimination includes all of the actions that people take against others they have prejudices toward.  The segregation of blacks and whites during the American Civil Rights Movement is an example of discrimination.  A modern example of discrimination might occur if a male employer were to pay a female employee lower wages due to his own sexism.  However, discrimination can also consist of more subtle, passive-aggressive behavior, such as dirty looks, or refusing to patronize a business because the owners or managers are of a certain race, gender, or religion.

There is a self-fulfilling prophecy involved with prejudice and discrimination as well.  Those who have been discriminated against begin to expect those around them to be prejudiced.  This leads to defensive behavior, further fueling the tension between the in-group and the out-group.  Furthermore, members of the in-group then feel justified in their beliefs, because those in the out-group are acting accordingly with the in-group’s preconceived impressions.

Discrimination and its self-fulfilling prophecy play a major role in the maintenance of prejudice and inequality.  First, it causes society to play the “blame game”.  The victims of discrimination blame those who act in discriminatory ways.  In turn, those with prejudice blame the out-group for putting themselves into their own predicament, and harbor resentment against them for pointing fingers.  Most often, neither group is willing to cooperate or see from the other’s perspective, and the reality of the situation is ignored.  The result of all of this is the perpetuation of stereotypes, which provide a backbone for discriminatory practices.

Take for example the uproar caused by the re-election of President Obama for his second term as President.  After his re-election, some states began threatening to secede from the United States for completely asinine reasons; claiming that a black man could not run a country, or that Obama wasn’t truly a US-born citizen.  These opinions, which have evidence that prove the contrary, are rooted in racism.  In this case, the racism was the prejudice, and the threat to secede was the discrimination.  The self-fulfilling prophecy comes into play in several ways.  Obama supporters might say that the secessionist states are acting in a typical racist way.  Their opposition could respond by saying Obama supporters only support him because of his race.  Both of these stigmas have been reinforced, and the conflict continues on.

Another issue which examines many aspects of inequality is the controversy over affirmative action plans in colleges and workplaces.  Affirmative action committees were formed in order to provide equal opportunities to minorities, so that every school or professional organization would include a certain quota of people from all races and ethnicities.  These programs protect individuals of minority race, religion, gender, and sex.  However, some argue that because these programs are focused on socioeconomic factors instead of on individual merit, they are inherently unfair because they are disadvantageous to the majority population, and it is sometimes referred to as “reverse discrimination”.  Here, the prejudice stems from good intentions for bettering the life of minorities.  The discrimination is the exclusion of the majority population.  The self-fulfilling prophecy might hold that the majority population, by opposing affirmative action, is practicing the very oppression that these programs were originally designed to deter.  Therefore, the need for these programs seems to be reinforced.

Whether intentional or not, prejudice and discrimination ensure the continuance of inequality in the United States.  Even subconsciously, we are furthering inequality through our actions and reactions with others.  Our feelings, or prejudices, influence our actions, or discriminations.  Because these forces are universally present in our daily lives, the way we use them or reject them will determine how they affect us.

Essay on Prejudice December 6, 2006

Posted by sdpurtill in Uncategorized.
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This is my December essay that I had to write for school. I liked the topic, so I decided to post it.

Prejudice

We will never be able to measure the full effects of prejudice: I think it affects everyone, even if it occurs at a subconscious level. I will be the first to admit that I am prejudice: I judge people daily by how they dress, talk, and look. Prejudice has a heavy psychological impact on the ones to whom it is directed at; it shows the ignorance of the person displaying the prejudice; and yes, I believe prejudice can be lessened, but I it will never be eliminated.

First off, I would like to quote Ayn Rand on racism: “[Racism] is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s lineage – the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.” She hits the nail right on the head here – there is no reason for us to judge people based on their looks, they didn’t get to choose to whom they were born. Yet so many times I find myself doing this; everyone does, even if they don’t admit it. Prejudice can have a wide range of implications on the person to whom it is directed at. I believe that lots of times we don’t see these effects immediately, but they show up later on in the person’s life. An example of this would be a black person who grows up in an all white community. Throughout his life, he is made fun of because he acts “white” (i.e., he tries hard in school, gets good grades, is smart). This kid could always feel alone, because his black friends disown him for acting white, and his white friends are subconsciously prejudice against him simply because he is black. This is a tough situation, and is extremely true in the lives of a lot of kids (especially in inner-cities). Not to pick on black people or anything, but I heard a report some time ago that only 2% of black kids make it out of the “hood”. It is extremely hard for them to overcome everyone making fun of them because they don’t conform to being a “gangster”. You can see this at Buckingham; the majority of black kids are caught up in the whole hip-hop culture. When one of them decides that they want to be something after high school, they immediately get made fun of for being “white”. I kind of hit a rabbit trail there, but you can understand: it is very hard for certain ethnic groups to overcome.

The person displaying the prejudice shows the ignorance of that person. Most kids get their prejudice roots from their parents at a very young age; it can come from a ton of different situations where the parent makes a comment, joke, etc, about a certain group. It also can come from the environment, in which the child grows up, and different situations that the child is involved in or witnesses. That being said, it is not an excuse for the person to be racist against the entire group, be it ethnic, social, or any other grouping. Ayn Rand says: “A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race – and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin.” I strongly agree with this statement: we must judge only on a person’s productive ability. This is hard to do, but when it comes down to it, the only thing that matters is a person’s ability and how well he can work. So, when someone judges another according to the group that they are associated with, this is completely erroneous, and it shows that the judger is basing his evaluation of that person off a general consensus. This is basing your judgment off of a collective: there is no such thing as a “collective”, there are only individuals: we should take this into account every time we are tempted to make an assumption.

We live in a semifree capitalist society today. As stated in the Constitution, every American has these rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There is a huge philosophical discussion that I could go into about that statement alone, but I will refrain. Those rights are all that we need as free citizens in a government that has limitations (the Bill of Rights). There are a few things that could be done to lessen prejudice in America today. One of the first things I would suggest we do is to teach all the youth to never judge someone based on the group they are associated with, but to only judge them based on their productive ability. This would have a domino effect: kids will push each other in school from a very young age (which is the most important time) to work to their highest ability. This would, in turn, generate smarter kids from the educational system: kids that try. Since we live in a capitalist society, everybody relatively has the same chance – when going to a job, you are hired on your ability. If the education system was graduating the majority of kids that were extremely smart, this would raise the competition to get a job. This would mean that jobs suddenly become harder to get, and only the highly qualified would be getting all the jobs. Once every industry is saturated with geniuses, America’s production and economy will go straight to the top. We will propel higher than any civilization in history (we already have, back in the 1950’s). This could all happen if each individual taught their children that they need not judge on skin color, clothes, or social status, but judge on productive ability.

In conclusion, there is no way that prejudice will ever be abolished in any society; it is futile to even try. As you can see from the previous paragraphs: prejudice has a dramatic impact on a person’s complex; prejudice only shows the ignorance of the one who is displaying it; and prejudice can be lessened, but will never be absolutely destroyed. I rest my case.

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