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.
Different kinds of Prejudice Today
One fact that everyone can agree on, regardless of where they live in the world, is that people are different. People come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. People believe in different religions, have different political views, and even have differing views on how to raise children. With all the differences in the world instead of embracing those differences and learning from other people, prejudices are commonplace.
What is Prejudice?
According to dictionary.com, the definition of prejudice is “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” Another definition is one that appears more accurate for the attitudes of today. The second definition states that prejudice is, “unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.”
In many instances, people who have a prejudice against another group will go out of their way to make life more difficult for those people. Sometimes these prejudices lead to lawsuits and others result in damage inflicted upon a group or individual either physically or through slanderous lies. Prejudice, on any level, can do tremendous damage to those targeted.
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Types of Prejudice
A number of types of prejudice exist in society today. The following are just a few of the most prominent prejudices.
- Racism – Racism is a form of prejudice that has been around for centuries. One of the most common forms of racism is racism against black/African-Americans. There are preconceived notions that black people are lazy, violet, drug dealers, and live on welfare. These prejudices have led to tremendous tension between the races as well as a great deal of violence.
- Sexual Orientation – As more people come out of the closet as being homosexual or bisexual acceptance has not surpassed those who only believe in heterosexual relations. Some members of society have developed misconceptions regarding the lifestyles of non-heterosexuals. People consider them sinners who are doing things that are unnatural and immoral. Others see them as sexual deviants who prey on innocent children, etc.
- Religion – People of all faiths are victims of religious persecution and discrimination. People saddle entire religions with stereotypes and untruths because of the negative actions of some that they claim they did on behalf, or for, their God. Christians and Muslims are two religious groups who suffer because of prejudice.
- Sex/Gender – When it comes to sexism historically, the belief is that men are better than, or rate higher than women rate. A direct result of this sexism is men earning a higher wage and getting the more desirable jobs. With people who are transgender being more open about their status another form of prejudice developed. Many people use their religious affiliations to say transgender is unnatural, thus resulting in people hiding who they are for fear of repercussions against them.
- Sizeism – This prejudice discriminates against people who do not fit into the accepted standards of beauty in society today. If someone is too tall, short, thin, or fat they suffer different forms of abuse. Because of the prejudice against overweight members of society, there are groups seeking acceptance of people of all shapes and sizes because no two people are the same.
Prejudice has no place in society. People who may be the victim of one form of prejudice may turn around and subject others to discrimination for another reason. The only way for prejudice to become a thing of the past is for everyone to accept that despite our differences, we all members of the human race.