The Relationship Between Prejudice And Discrimination

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This essay is going to discuss the relationship between prejudice and discrimination by drawing upon relevant literature, such as Abrams (2010) Equality and Human Rights Report and a study conducted by Hilton & Von Hippel (1996), which link to both associated concepts. It will include a definition of the terms as well as critically discuss the social psychological evidence that supports the relationship between each component. It will include psychological principles for a variety of groups, including race and gender. Prejudice is the preconceived unjustified opinion or judgement that is usually negative, and not based on fact, reason or actual experience. It is an emotional effect that a person may have towards another or a group that is based solely on that person’s membership to the particular group such as age, gender, race, religion, and class status among many others. Wapman and Belle (2014, as citied by Rudinger, Naradowsky, Leonard, & Van Durme, 2018) conducted a study which exposes the prejudices held towards women still to this day.

In the ‘Father-son exercise” people were asked to solve a riddle and ‘explain how the parent of a car crash victim can be the surgeon if the father was killed’. Wapman and Belle (2014) found that only 15% of participants answered correctly with ‘the mother is the surgeon’. This suggests that 85% of participants did not even contemplate the idea that the surgeon could have been female implying that many have the prejudice belief that women may not be competent surgeons. (Rudinger, Naradowsky, Leonard, & Van Durme, 2018). Women that are employed in full-time jobs only earn 77 percent of their male counterparts' earnings. They are still suffering certain injustices because of the prejudice towards their gender and they continue to seek equal rights so that they are treated accordingly for their individual efforts because of their gender. Marxist Feminists believe that the emerge of capitalism has influenced male dominance over women within the work force as men have tried to gain control of the labour power. Throughout history male employers have excluded women from certain trades and crafts as well as exploiting women with the wage gap and even as their wives for their unpaid housework. A criticism of this standpoint is not necessarily the dispute for equality but that both men and women have separate and different obligations to uphold within society for the sake of the family. (Taylor, 2011).

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Being prejudiced about a person does not mean that someone will act out on their thoughts or belief’s. Therefore, a person can be prejudice towards someone without discriminating against them. There are three factors of an attitude which make someone prejudice against another; affective, behavioural, and cognitive, while discrimination is behaviour. The relationship between prejudice and discrimination appears to be somewhat complex. From a methodical point of view discrimination is an implication of the relationship between attitude and behaviour. Hilton & Von Hippel (1996) conducted a meta-analysis study which found that prejudice was positively correlated with discrimination. (Hilton & Von Hippel, 1996). Discrimination is when a person carries out a particular behaviour or action towards another based on their prejudice beliefs, it can take many forms and can be subtle or obvious. It is the, usually negative, behaviour or action towards a person that excludes or disadvantages them in some way.

A person is discriminated against when they receive treatment that is unequal to them based on their status. This limits their access to social resources such as education, jobs, political power and in some extreme cases brings physical harm upon them. This does not explain how discrimination is formed in the first place. (Abrams, 2010). Stereotyping is an over generalized belief about a particular group of people. Which is a general cognitive process that is not always negative. However, when a stereo typical belief is combined with prejudicial attitudes and emotions it can result in a behaviour to become discriminatory. The consequences of prejudice and discrimination can lead to people and entire communities feeling defenceless, scared and insignificant.

At worst, the results can lead to genocide. Although genocide seems extreme, this has clearly been demonstrated by the discrimination revealed during the Second World War, where the death of 6 million Jewish people, was that the consequences of prejudice being unchallenged. It is not however illegal to have prejudice views because that involves opinion. When such opinions or attitudes are put into action or behaviour is when it becomes discrimination which in some cases is a criminal offence. (Fein, 1979). More recently many anti-discrimination laws have been passed, especially in the United Kingdom. The Equality Act 2010 aimed to combine previous Acts and Regulations, including the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2006. While this is inclusive moving forward this does not always deter discrimination in the UK as well as other parts of the world. (Act, Equality, 2010). There are four main explanations of prejudice and discrimination: Authoritarian Personality, Realistic Conflict Theory, Stereotyping and the Social Identity Theory. Tajfel and Turner’s (1979) Social Identity Theory proposes that groups give us a senses of belonging to the social world. In order to expand our self-image, we tend to enhance the status of the group in which we feel a belonging to, by doing this we devalue and hold prejudice towards the group that we do not belong and categorising others as “us” or “them”.

Prejudice existing by Socialization implies that prejudice beliefs have been passed down from parents to their children. In addition, exposure to media may perpetuate demeaning images and stereotypes of certain groups such as elderly, ethnic minorities, women and many more. (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Prejudice is seen as a socially unaccepted attitude, however, in some societies and cultures social norms sometimes differ and prejudice behaviour towards certain groups may be accepted and in some instances encouraged. You only have to look at the values of Dutch culture and their annual celebration of ‘Sinterklass’ (St Nicolas) to see the implications of the socialisation of children. Sinterklass is accompanied by his black-servant, ‘Zwarte Piet’ (Black Pete), that is adored but at the same time encouraged to be feared. The story of Zwarte Piet goes back hundreds of years, however, it was popularized more recently in a 19th-century children’s book. Throughout the annual Christmas celebration, starting in November through to December, it is perfectly acceptable to dress up as ‘Black Pete’ by painting faces black, wearing Afro wigs and drawing big red lips on faces whilst parading around the streets in The Netherlands. Many Dutch people admit that Zwarte Piet was seen as a menacing character.

Children were told the myth that he would beat them with a stick if they misbehaved and carry them off to Spain in a sack (Blakely, 2001). The controversies surrounding Zwarte Piet reveal the inherent societal problems as well as the evolution of Dutch attitudes towards race. Not only is Social Identity Theory prevalent in this case but also conformity within society. Many Dutch exasperate that this celebration is simply innocent festive fun for children. However, they fail to recognise that, although the figure has been forever changing, historically Zwarte Piet was portrayed as a black-skinned, callous and violent servant. This could arguably be a reflection of racial biases and political developments from the colonial period onwards. While black slaves were freed, Zwarte Piet continues to reveal the colonial ideology of the superiority of whiteness and supports racial socialization. (Helsloot, 2012). This standpoint should be taken into account when considering how racial stereotyping is reinforced resulting in discriminative behaviours and inequality towards individuals that are a representation of the stereotype. Employment statistics shows that the effects of prejudice beliefs may have had a huge impact on the difference in unemployment rates between White Dutch citizens as opposed to those of Afro-Caribbean heritage. There is a disproportional difference within the figures where 6.9 percent of White Dutch citizens are in unemployment as opposed to a huge 27 percent for Black Dutch citizens, it can only be assumed that the likely influence is the prejudice and discrimination held towards those that are seen to characterise Zwarte Piet. (Boerhout, Jung, & Marcinkowski, 2012).

Prejudice and discrimination is spoken mostly about in negative terms, it can however have a positive biased effect on individuals in some cases. Positive discrimination is when a particular person or group is given what would be seen to be special privileges in order to compensate their perceived disadvantage. An example of this is that disabled people are often allocated parking spaces closest to an entrance for them to gain easier access to a building. (Beckett, 2009). To conclude, this essay has discussed the relationship between prejudice and discrimination by drawing upon relevant literature as well as modern day cultural norms. It has argued whether women are treated unequally due to prejudice beliefs or perhaps they may simply have different obligations to uphold within society, therefor, their role should be different to that of a man. This essay has also evaluated Social Identity theory as a cause for discrimination and taken into consideration conformity among different groups, especially in the matter of race. Although it is a common cognitive process to generalise beliefs about a particular group, it appears as though ignorance, lack of knowledge and socialisation that in which it develops. Though it may be impossible to eradicate prejudice across all cultures, gaining public support and awareness by exposing prejudice social norms could help communities be more empathetic to their fellow members of mankind. This in turn may perhaps minimise discrimination.

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The Relationship Between Prejudice And Discrimination. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
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