Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Prejudice and Discrimination. What’s the difference?

Prejudice and discrimination are both common throughout the world. But what’s the difference between the two? According to our book, Essentials of Sociology, discrimination is an action, or unfair treatment directed towards someone. Discrimination can be based on many different things. For example discrimination can be based on age, gender, height, weight, clothing, income, speech, marital status, religion, politics, and skin color. When the basis of discrimination is someone’s perception of skin color or race, then it is known as racism.

There are two different type of discrimination; individual and institutional discrimination. Individual discrimination defines discrimination as the negative treatment of one person by another. Individual discrimination creates problems, but it is primarily an issue between individuals. Meaning that the only one who can fix individual discrimination, is the individual. Institutional discrimination on the other hand is broader. Institutional discrimination is discrimination that has been woven into society. It is much harder to fix because instead of just affecting an individual, it’s affecting an entire society. Our book describes that banks lending out home mortgages as an excellent example of institutional discrimination. According to our book, recent studies have shown that bankers are more likely to reject loan applications of minorities. Bankers defend themselves by saying that whites have a better credit history. When researchers retested their data, they found that even when applicants had identical credit; African Americans and Latinos were 60% more likely to be rejected. From the data that they collected we can see that minorities are still more likely to be turned down for a loan, whether their incomes are below or above the median income of their community. As you can see this is an example that is more than just an individual problem, it’s a problem that is affecting society.

Now that we have a better understanding of discrimination, how do we define what prejudice is? Prejudice is the attitude that often results from discrimination. Prejudice involves prejudging of some sort, usually in a negative way. However, there are cases in which prejudice can be positive. Positive prejudice exaggerates the virtues and qualities of others. Most prejudice is negative and involves prejudging a group as being inferior.

Why are people prejudice? The book describes theories of prejudice to help explain why people have this attitude. People often unfairly blame their troubles on a scapegoat, or a group or individual that is unfairly blamed from someone else’s problems. Why do people do this? Well, people who are unable to strike out at the real source of their frustration look for someone else to blame. This person or group becomes a target on which they vent their frustrations. Ones personality can also lead to someone being prejudice. When someone has an authoritarian personality they are seen as highly prejudiced and also rank high on scales of conformity, intolerance, insecurity, respect for authority, and submissiveness to superiors.

All of us at one point have been prejudice against someone else. So my question to you is why do we do it when we know it’s wrong? I think all of us can do a better job at not judging other people based on our initial perceptions of them.

Here is a cool video on racial discrimination and prejudice. Check it out.

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