Prejudice and Stereotyping Are Not New to Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Prejudice and stereotyping are not new to society, but alert students (and others who are educated as to the dangers of prejudice) should beware of falling into stereotyping that unfairly passes judgment on others who are not like us. Thesis: While it is nearly impossible for people to avoid placing certain groups and individuals into strict stereotypical categories, nevertheless honest, thoughtful people recognize and avoid the injustices perpetrated by stereotyping.

Prejudice - ONE

Prejudice: In Chapter 6 the authors point out that prejudice involves "…a negative attitude toward individuals based on their membership in a particular group." In the New York Times-owned online resource, About.com, the authors describe prejudice as a "…baseless and usually negative attitude" toward group members, and it is often the result of stereotyping a group or person (Cherry, 2011). One way in which people arrive at prejudicial feelings is by minimizing "…the differences between people within groups" and by exaggerating "the differences between groups" (Cherry). The human mind tends to need to think "…with the aid of categories," according to psychologist Gordon Allport; and once humans form those categories, they then are "the basis for normal prejudgment" (Cherry).

Discrimination: Chapter 6 explains that discrimination is basically a "negative behavior toward individuals or groups" and those negative behaviors are based on certain attitudes and beliefs about those people or groups. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) goes deeper into the definition, and includes fact sheets for each one of the following areas that experience discriminatory actions or attitudes. They are: age, disability, equal pay, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race or color, religion, retaliation, sex, and sexual harassment. The EEOC describes sex-based discrimination as treating another person "…unfavorably because of that person's sex"; or, treating someone with harassment through the use of "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors" that may create a hostile work environment (EEOC). In the case of racial discrimination, it may involve harassment with racial slurs, or preventing a person of a certain ethnicity from being hired simply based on the person's race or ethnicity (EEOC).

Stereotype: when a person is stereotyped, it is a form of discrimination and prejudice. Nadra Nittle writes in About.com that stereotypes are certain qualities that are assigned to groups of people linked to those people's "…race, nationality and sexual orientation" (Nittle, 2012). In fact stereotypes at the most basic level are "…oversimplifications of people groups" and they can be "widely circulated in certain societies" (Nittle). In the U.S., for example, Asian-American students are often stereotyped as being really good at math, so it is clear that stereotypes are not always mean spirited albeit they are usually unfair. But they can be very mean-spirited and even vicious. For example, Islamic terrorists use stereotypes to promote hatred towards Americans and Western Europeans by saying that all Americans and Western Europeans are "infidels" and because of that they should all be killed.

In-group vs. out-group: Susan Whitbourne explains that baseball fans are "…identical in their passion, their drive, and their devotion…" to their teams. But there are noticeable in-groups and out-groups. Red Sox fans in Boston believe that Yankee fans in New York are "disturbed" and likewise, Yankee fans believe there is something very disturbed about Red Sox fans. In Boston, Red Sox fans are the in-group and Yankee fans are the "out-group"; the Yankee fan is the in-group in New York and of course those crazy Red Sox fans are the out-group in New York (Whitbourne). Not all in-group / out-group examples are sports fans of course. Whitbourne offers the example of a pedestrian crossing a street on a crosswalk, which it the legal and proper way to cross a street. In the process of crossing the street the pedestrian stops briefly to text a friend on his cell phone. The drivers in cars waiting for the pedestrian to cross are impatient once they see the pedestrian texting; one could say the texting pedestrian is the "in-group" because he or she has control of the situation and has forced drivers to stop. The drivers, meanwhile, are in the "out-group" because unless they wish to commit homicide and run the pedestrian down, they are out of luck for the moment.

Prejudice -- TWO

The social cognitive origins of prejudicial and stereotypes are based on a number of factors, according to Chapter 6 (p. 74-75). One of the origins of prejudice and stereotype is based on how humans receive information and process information cognitively. The authors say that because information is received and processed through cognition, generalizations about what humans see and perceive are bound to occur.

It may be unfair, but presenting "categories" of groups or events aid the individual in terms of saving "cognitive energy and allowing us to process more information" (75). Having those categories established allows a person to make decisions later -- and not have to begin all over fresh making judgments and adjusting behaviors accordingly.

What is in-group favoritism? In the PubMed website (part of the National Center for Biotechnical Information, the National Library of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health) the authors say that a "central aspect of human behavior" is to favor one group over another (Fu, et al., 2012). People are known to offer assistance to groups that they are familiar with more so than groups they are not in touch with or familiar with; it's human nature. In Chapter 6 (p. 75) the authors add that the tendency to show favoritism to one's own group is universal and stands up to research in that regard.

Out-group homogeneity effect: The tendency to view out-groups as "…more homogeneous, or less variable, than in-groups" is the description of the out-group homogeneity effect. In research programs, it has been shown that "…over and above any overall in-group preferences," that is, rating your own group more positively than out-groups, in research studies the out-group was judged "…more stereotypically than the in-groups" (Judd, et al., 2010). Social Inequalities are actually based on a stratification system that is based on justifying stereotypes and prejudices (Chapter 6, pp. 77-78). Part of that stratification is a result of groups competing for resources such as jobs, clean environments, good schools, etc. For example if an immigrant family (with 7 children) from Mexico moves into a traditionally African-American neighborhood, that small park that had been used primarily by black families must now be shared with the new neighbors.

Which of these categories is most significant in our society and in my neighborhood? I believe in-group favoritism is more powerful than any of the other categories. People are drawn to others like them; political progressives support President Obama's efforts and so that politically active group tends to socialize with each other because conservatives are the out-group. Moreover, since there is currently dramatic polarization between conservatives and progressives, both groups are suspicious of each other and see each other as contemptible.

Prejudice -- THREE

The influences that promote stereotyping are often based on a person's family and cultural setting. White people in many instances tend to see themselves as a notch above African-Americans and Latinos; in many cases this prejudice and use of stereotyping is culturally learned. The consequences of stereotyping can be seen as racist, and can lead to bigotry that is passed on from one generation to another. This behavior is destructive to the future of the American society as a whole, and can poison relations between Americans just because of different cultural ethnicities and values. Reducing prejudice can be done through contact between groups. Sports teams with diverse cultures work together for a common goal. And that same concept can be repeated in business and social situations. There are notable theories that show when two groups (that traditionally see others as out-groups) have social contact with each other, tensions…

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