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Analytical Essay on Prejudice, and Discrimination in Our Society

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Generally, people have hopeful beliefs and feelings towards others, and our relations with the community as a whole, that are generally friendly and positive. Notwithstanding, there is potential for pessimistic relations, and in rare cases, hostility and cruelty. In the present, the rise in immigration and globalization are leading to more culturally diverse occupants in many countries. These changes will generate rewards for society and for the people within it. Gender, cultural, sexual orientation, and ethnic diversity can enhance innovation and group performance, enabling new ways of looking at issues, and permit multiple viewpoints on decisions (‘Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination – Principles of Social Psychology – 1st International Edition’, 2019). On the other hand, perceived comparability is an especially important component of liking. Representatives of culturally diverse groups may be less allured to each other than are people of more similar groups, may have more hassles of socializing with each other, and in some cases may actively oppose and even strike in aggressive behaviour towards one another. Tenets to which contribute to prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping are the ABCs of attitudes: “affect (feelings), behaviour tendency (inclination to act) and cognition (beliefs)” (Myers, Abell & Sani, 2010).

To begin with, the Social Dominance Theory (SDT) can be defined as an assumption that a particular social group is positioned higher in society in contrast to others, subject to power and resources (ie White people), as well as, being favoured more positively than those in a lower social group (ie. Black people). This theory is focused on group-based inequality and social power (Pratto, Sidanious, Van Laar & Levin, 2019). SDT challenges the reason why human societies gravitate to be organize groups in a hierarchal manner. Furthermore, the focus on the more ‘subtle’ form of discrimination and oppression that people encounter on a daily basis. Coinciding with SDT, group discrimination is inclined to be more structured due to the social ideologies that assist in the coordination of actions of the person and the society (Pratto, Sidanious, Van Laar & Levin, 2019). In contrast, the Social Identity Theory (SIT) have strongly motivated the blossoming of the Social Dominance Theory. In regards to this, SIT conveys the ways in the way individuals are able to fabricate an individuals social identities to suit their demands. This determined the human population to form a concept of the group distinctions based on a persons race, nationality ethnicity, class, etcetera, these are also known as ‘arbitary-set’ distinctions, this is because we note how the resemblances function, notwithstanding, the local social ideologies and histories that they were based from earlier on (Pratto, Sidanious, Van Laar & Levin, 2019). Another inspiration that was passed down from SIT was the discovery of in-group favouritism in minimally defined groups or such groups that have no historical influence, interaction, etcetera (Pratto, Sidanious, Van Laar & Levin, 2019).

The social groups we participate in help construct our individualities (Tajfel, 1974). These dissimilarities may be challenging for some people to conform to, which may lead to prejudice towards diverse populations. Prejudice is a negative attitude and feeling towards a person based on a persons participation in a specific social group (Allport, 1954; Brown, 2010).

Occasionally, individuals will act on their prejudiced attitudes, this behaviour is known as discrimination. Discrimination is a negative action to an individual as a result of their involvement in a specific group (Allport, 1954; Dovidio & Gaertner, 2004). As a result of holding negative opinions (stereotypes) and negative attitudes (prejudice) about a definite group, individuals often manage the victim of prejudice inappropriately.

Throughout history, prejudice and racism have brought about large amounts of misery to individuals. Racism is a specific formation of prejudice, which constitutes of prejudicial attitudes or behaviour towards individuals of a distinct ethnic group.

Factors that cause people to be racist or sexist, for instance, may come from students, parents and group representatives. Obeying social norms means people acquire the standard set of behaviours associated with a specific group or society.

Social norms are the behaviours considered appropriate within a social group and which are one of the plausible influences on prejudice and discrimination. People can have prejudiced opinions and feelings and act in a prejudiced manner because they are conforming to what is considered as standard in the social groups they partake in.

Humans can have prejudiced views and feelings and act in a prejudiced manner considering the fact they comply with what is perceived as standard in the social group they are involved with. Having mentioned this, a couple of studies have been done to help further research the association between prejudice and individuals. Minard (1952) explored how social norms have impacted prejudice and discrimination. Minard examined the behaviours of black and white miners in a town in the southern United States, both above and below ground. It was found that below ground, the social norm was a friendly behaviour towards work colleagues, the white miners were friendly towards the black miners, whilst, above ground, the white miners behaved differently and in a discriminatory way conforming to the current social norms carried out from the whites towards the black population.

Also Pettigrew (1959) researched the role of conformity in prejudice. He explored the idea that people who tended to be more conformist would also be more prejudiced. This phenomenon has shown to be prevalent amongst white South African students (Sechrist & Stangor, 2019). Consequently, he also reported the higher levels of prejudice against black people happening in the southern part of the United States than in the north, showing the greater social acceptability of this kind of prejudice in the southern part of the country (Sechrist & Stangor, 2019). Lastly, a study by Rogers and Frantz (1962), found that immigrants to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) became more prejudiced the longer they stayed in the country. They gradually conformed more and more to the prevailing cultural norms of prejudiced acts/behaviours against the black community. It was assessed that conformity towards the social norms, then, may offer an explanation for prejudice in some social systems. However, norms change over time, so this can only go some way towards the explanation of the survival of prejudice.

In Western countries, overt prejudice is slowly converting to subtle prejudice, for example, exaggerating ethnic differences within social groups, expressing little or no respect or appreciation towards immigrant minorities and rejecting these groups on different basis than racial motives. Modern prejudice can emerge as a sensitivity, which can lead to magnified reactions towards individuals of isolated minorities. This can also lead to overly criticizing individual mistakes or overpraising their achievements (textbook).

Social stereotyping is significantly consistent with prejudice. Stereotyping can be defined as “a generalised belief about the personal attributes of a group of people”. Generally, when a group of people or a single individual assimilate another group or person, we attribute a series of traits to them based on the one aspect which gestures their involvement in a specified group (Cohen, 2019). For instance, a common stereotype that is commonly used towards Asians is that they are dedicated and academically successful (Cohen, 2019) .

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Stereotypes are commonly widely held, oversimplified, inaccurate and resistant to new information. Social stereotypes do not just provide cognitive or ego-defensive functions for people and group validation for the more privileged social group, but they also afford a foundation and validate the systems of hierarchical correspondence within our society.

Stereotypes are intrinsically rigid and possibly neglect the uniqueness of each individual. Additionally, they can lead to aggressive and demeaning beliefs, actions and habits. This causes an intermingle towards prejudice and potential further discrimination. Devine (1989), researched a dissociation model of prejudice which asserts that stereotypes are cognitives constructions that are usually learned in early childhood and can be triggered effortlessly, meanwhile, prejudice is developed in adolescence or adulthood.

Globally, a common form of stereotyping is racial profiling. Racial profiling mainly held towards racialized individuals. Unfortunately, it is very evident in today’s society. For example, in the United States, policeman are used to pulling over automobiles and searching individuals and, it has been found that the main racial group to be searched were black individuals and hispanics (Poston & Chang, 2019). Subtle forms of discriminations causes racialized individuals being exposed and being gravely accused for generalized and generic mistakes (‘Examples of racial discrimination (fact sheet)’, 2019). Daily, in metropolitan and rural areas across countries, law enforcement and security agents victimize and shame individuals of colour, as well as, searching them without any proof of any sort of crime (‘Racial Profiling’, 2019). This is all constructed towards, ethnicity, religions, race, and national origin .

Stereotypes can be easily fortified by confirmation bias. When an individual intermingles with a victim of prejudice, a person may observe the information that is stable with our stereotypical assumptions and avoid any new insights that is unstable with an individual’s assumptions.

Social categorization is everywhere, no matter where we go. It can be defined as “the process by which individuals categorize themselves and others into differentiated groups.” Within social categorization, individuals tend to place people into categories, for example: whites and blacks, privileged and non privileged, etcetera. This causes the group members of in-groups (“a group of people who share a sense of belonging, a feeling of common identity, generally contrasted with the out-group members”) to discern/discriminate group members of the out-groups (“a group of people that people perceive as distinctively different from or apart from their in-group”). Also, individuals automatically tend to identify members of in-groups from out-groups.

Categorization does have its privileges. It allows individuals to speculate about themselves as participants of perceived valued groups. The negative consequences is causing the over generalized stereotypes, as well as, in-group favouritism (“the tendency to respond more positively to people from our in-groups than we do to people from out-groups”).

Over time, investigators have been attempting to penetrate the possible explanations to why prejudice is so enduring amongst groups of individuals. To this present day, racism, sexism, homophobia, etcetera, still live amongst social/societal groups causing discrimination and intolerance against others social and ethnic groups. As claimed by Allport, it takes a lot more than pure exposure to change someone’s opinion about prejudices. In reality, the only way to change someone’s opinion about someone or something is to increase the positive contact that is experienced (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

Actually, an individual’s prejudice is essentially reinforced when another person attempts to degrade it. (Amongst the confirmation bias, stereotypes and the positive interaction that are needed in order to transform a person’s view, it is quite implausible that prejudice can be completely abolished).

Prejudice and discrimination persist in society due to social learning and conformity to social norms. Children learn prejudiced attitudes and beliefs from society: their parents, teachers, friends, the media, and other sources of socialization, such as Facebook (O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011). If certain types of prejudice and discrimination are acceptable in a society, there may be normative pressures to conform and share those prejudiced beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours. For example, public and private schools are still somewhat segregated by social class. Historically, only children from wealthy families could afford to attend private schools, whereas children from middle- and low-income families typically attended public schools. If a child from a low-income family received a merit scholarship to attend a private school, how might the child be treated by classmates?

Another dynamic that can reinforce stereotypes is confirmation bias. When interacting with the target of our prejudice, we tend to pay attention to information that is consistent with our stereotypical expectations and ignore information that is inconsistent with our expectations. In this process, known as confirmation bias, we seek out information that supports our stereotypes and ignore information that is inconsistent with our stereotypes (Wason & Johnson-Laird, 1972). In a job interview, for example, the employer may not have noticed that the job applicant was friendly and engaging, and that he provided competent responses to the interview questions in the beginning of the interview. Instead, the employer focused on the job applicant’s performance in the later part of the interview, after the applicant changed his demeanour and behaviour to match the interviewer’s negative treatment.

Self-fulfilling prophecy is another dynamic that can reinforce an individual prejudice and stereotyping attitude. For example, if an employer expects an openly gay male job applicant to be incompetent, the potential employer might treat the applicant negatively during the interview by engaging in less conversation, making little eye contact, and generally behaving coldly toward the applicant (Hebl, Foster, Mannix, & Dovidio, 2002). In turn, the job applicant will perceive that the potential employer dislikes him, and he will respond by giving shorter responses to interview questions, making less eye contact, and generally disengaging from the interview. After the interview, the employer will reflect on the applicant’s behaviour, which seemed cold and distant, and the employer will conclude, based on the applicant’s poor performance during the interview, that the applicant was in fact incompetent. Thus, the employer’s stereotype, gay men are incompetent and do not make good employees, is reinforced. Treating individuals according to stereotypic beliefs can lead to prejudice and discrimination.

Prejudice is still very frequent in our society. However, people are not always actively seeking ways to prove themselves wrong. In fact, most people’s prejudice is reinforced when someone else tries to diminish it, stereotypes play a large part in this. So, why does it still exist? it is still existent because we allow it to.

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Analytical Essay on Prejudice, and Discrimination in Our Society. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-prejudice-and-discrimination-in-our-society/
“Analytical Essay on Prejudice, and Discrimination in Our Society.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-prejudice-and-discrimination-in-our-society/
Analytical Essay on Prejudice, and Discrimination in Our Society. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-prejudice-and-discrimination-in-our-society/> [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
Analytical Essay on Prejudice, and Discrimination in Our Society [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2023 Jan 31]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-prejudice-and-discrimination-in-our-society/
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