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Prejudice Essay, Research Paper

Prejudice has been apart of human beings since the beginning of time. People

hold disparaging views towards other groups because of sex, race, color and

religious beliefs. If our society hopes to move forward and continue to be

productive, prejudice must stop. In a time when the world is advanced as it ever

has been, prejudice still remains a major problem. Discovering the roots of

prejudice, and being able to understand prejudice views, we as a society will be

able to find solutions to stop it. To understand prejudice, we must first

consider all the factors that contribute towards it, and then find a way to

counter these factors one by one. Prejudice 3 The Roots of Prejudice There is no

simple one-word answer to the question of what causes people to be prejudice.

The result of prejudice stems from many complex mixtures of environmental

factors, upbringing, media, economic status, and finally experiences. With this

being stated, what is the main factor for prejudice, and what can we as a

society do to overcome prejudice views? When prejudice is mentioned, one tends

to think of white and black conflict, but prejudice views can also be held about

women, age, religion, and other ethnic people. To begin to understand the roots

of prejudice, it must first be defined. Prejudice is an attitude held toward the

member of some group, based solely on their membership in that group. How people

develop their attitudes and stereotypes of other people is where the root of

prejudice begins. By learning how and why prejudice views take root, society

will learn to change these negative opinions. Groups of people who hold

prejudice outlooks about other groups of people tend to process information

about these groups differently from the way they process information about other

groups. The individual traits and behaviors do not affect how they are viewed,

unless their behavior reinforces the prejudice opinion already held. There is a

belief in our society today that things are much better racially now then a

hundred years ago. The media portrays this idea daily. This statement can be

classified as being somewhat true, but we as a society still have a long way to

go to achieve racial harmony. Development of Prejudice There is still an

enormous public display and denial of prejudice in our society. According to

Earl Hutchinson: The most dangerous example of public racial denial is the

militia and patriot movements. Prejudice 4 They depict themselves as

?anti-government activists? fighting to preserve American freedoms. They

exorcised derogatory references to blacks, Jews, Asians, Gays, and Feminists

from their public statements and writings. The media and some civil rights and

liberties groups back them up and print their writings. These groups may differ

in tactics from the old Klan, Nazi Party, and John Birch Society, but they still

unite three points: White Christians must rule America, the federal government

is the enemy, and violence is the only accepted means to gain control. (1996,

p.87) When the media covers these groups, they give them free publicity and a

chance to be heard. Opinions are not only formed from the news, but also from

television, magazines, and radio. For a long time, there were very few programs

that portrayed blacks, Asian, Gays and other ethnic people in a positive manner

on television. Even today, there can be an argument that very few television

shows are geared towards minority races. For example, look at the popular shows

?Friends?, ?Frazier?, and ?The X-Files?, none of which have a main

minority character. By not having a positively portrayed minority on these

shows, the media is helping prejudice. Media, television and radio are all

contributing factors towards prejudice views, but not the only factors. The

Tradition of Prejudice People learn from a young age to form opinions, values,

beliefs, and stereotypes from their parents. Because parents and environment

play such a major role in children?s upbringing, it should be pointed out that

this is one of the main contributing factors towards forming prejudice views.

When children hear their parents saying something prejudice, or observe them

acting a certain way towards a group, the child begins to form the same

opinions. By forming the same Prejudice 5 beliefs as their parents, they are

inheriting prejudice behavior. Their environment plays just as an important role

in forming prejudice views. Children who come from a poor isolated area have

fewer experiences to draw their own differing opinions from their parents. When

a child comes from a more educated, less isolated environment, they have more

experiences to draw their own opinions from. This can help explain why in the

southern part of the United States people had, and still have a hard time

changing prejudice views. David Goldfield pointed out, ?white children

learned, and were taught at an early age that whites were supreme, and therefore

certain relationships with blacks were not acceptable? (1990, p. 12).

Goldfield goes on to explain how the southern view of blacks and minorities was

passed on to generation after generation by stating: Southern white children

learned these lessons in school and recalled them with parents and relatives,

the past becoming more romantic and less challenged by contrary opinions with

each passing generation. This was a society that passed down its heritage

orally. Southerners lived or visited among extended kinship groups, where at

least one member could recall either directly or through a close relative the

Eden of the Old South, the sacrifice and suffering of the war, and the social

and racial givens that emanated from this history. Southerners worshipped their

past; it became their present, and it colored their vision of the future. (1990,

p. 17) By showing how the south passed on prejudice towards blacks and other

minorities as a tradition after the civil war, one can now learn how and why the

roots of prejudice become learned traits. Learning how prejudice is passed on

from parent to child, we can look for ways to stop the tradition of prejudice.

Today, the south does not continue to have such a strong tradition of Prejudice

6 prejudice, but the roots can still be found. For example, just recently in

Texas, three white men dragged a black man behind their car, killing him. In

what became a national media event because of the gruesome and racially

motivated murder, one can see the seeds of prejudice were planted in the three

white males at an early age. They all belonged to white supremacist group and

admitted to killing the black man so they could move up to a higher position

within the group. Even in our society today, discrimination and prejudice can

lead to violence, especially when race is involved. Racial prejudice is not the

only issue facing our society today. There are many forms of gender prejudice

and discrimination as well. Prejudice Towards Women According to Baron and

Byrne, ?More than half of the world?s population is female. Yet despite this

fact, in many cultures females have been treated like a minority group? (2000

p.239). In our society, many strides have taken place to further women rights

and equality, yet we still have predominate prejudice towards women. Laws have

been passed world wide to help make prejudice against women illegal, like the

laws to help stop racial prejudice, nonetheless society has turned to a more

subtle prejudice. Examples can be found throughout our society and the world to

prove this statement. How many American Presidents have been women? Look at the

reaction to women officials in the NBA. How many women are CEO?s, professional

coaches, racecar drivers, military leaders, the list goes on and on. With half

the world?s population being comprised of women, you would think they would

hold at least a majority of these positions. Covert prejudice is instead how our

society has learned to be prejudice towards women. Once again, we have certainly

made strides from the past where women were suppose to be ?bare foot and

pregnant?, however we still have a long way to go. A prime example of

prejudice towards Prejudice 7 women in our society can be found from our former

Vice President Dan Quayl when he publicly scrutinized the show ?Murphy

Brown? for depicting a single working mom having a child out of wedlock. The

second most powerful man in the world was being prejudice towards women for

working and not staying at home with their children. He was blasted by some of

the media, yet he still found quite a few followers from our society. Society

has come along way with beliefs of the roles of women, but we certainly have a

lot further to travel. Another example I would like to present is one that I

experienced in a military Equal Opportunity Training class I participated in.

The instructor began the class by stating she would give an example of gender

prejudice if we would listen to her story and then write down the answer. I

considered myself to be a very unbiased gender person and looked forward to

taking the test. She stated, ?a man and his son were traveling and slid on the

ice. The father was instantly killed and the son was taken to the emergency room

in critical condition. Upon arrival, the doctor came out stated they could not

operate on this patience for he was their son.? The instructor asked us to

explain how this could be. My mind raced to come up with the answer. Maybe the

boy had a step father, or the boy?s dad was gay and the doctor was his

partner?.I was sure I had came up with the right answer, after all I believed

I did not hold any bias. The simple answer that the doctor was his mother never

occurred to me. Even I have a long way to go with my own gender prejudice, just

like our society. Women have always fought an uphill battle in our society in

fighting gender prejudice. To better understand the history of women fighting

gender prejudice in our society, I quote Veraware.com: American women have

historically been victimized by discrimination in suffrage (which was not

secured until a 1920 constitutional amendment), employment, and other civil

rights (for Prejudice 8 many years, for example, women were denied the right to

serve on juries). In the late 1960s the women’s movement experienced a rebirth,

and the demand for legal equality with men was pressed not only against

discriminatory practices but also against outmoded attitudes toward the role of

women in society. Some gains against discrimination in employment were made as a

result of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1972 Congress passed the Equal Rights

Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution and submitted it to the states for

ratification. With only 35 of the 38 state legislatures ratifying the amendment,

however, the necessary approval was not secured by the 1982 deadline. By

understanding the historic battle to overcome gender prejudice, society is able

to better learn the steps needed to stop the spread of prejudice and come up

with solutions. Solutions to Prejudice The roots of prejudice in our society are

prevalent in many combinations of factors such as, upbringing, environment,

media, and finally experiences. Understanding the roots of prejudice are the

keys to solving the spread of it. First of all, I believe society must keep

passing laws against prejudice and fight it through government policy as stated

by Holly Sklar: We need vigorous debate over how to reshape policy in the public

interest – not the pseudo debate of false campaign promises, negative political

ads and talk radio hate-mongering. Rights and "entitlements" familiar

today – among them the eight-hour day, minimum wage, Social Security and the

right of workers to organize and bargain collectively – were obtained in the

face of strong opposition. Many of these achievements are being eroded.

Demagoguery is threatening democracy. To realize community over chaos we must

not only protect old Prejudice 9 gains, but forge new social, political and

economic rights for the 21st century. (1995, South End Press) Continuing to pass

laws to stop prejudice is a good start, but not the only solution. Society must

learn to educate our children throughout their lives on how to deal with

prejudice and give them the skills to overcome discrimination. Brian Aull

states: Even our federal government is at a loss in dealing with a problem that

is rapidly evolving into a full-blown national crisis. The problem persists

because we have avoided addressing it for what it really is – a social disease,

virulent and infectious, woven into the moral and spiritual fabric of society,

passed from parents to children, from one generation to another, for over three

centuries. The civil rights laws failed to thwart the growth of the cancer of

racism, because they only dealt with two of the disease’s symptoms – segregation

and discrimination – but not with the disease itself. (AAR, Internet) I believe

that education and the continuous passing of laws will help stop prejudice at

its roots. Finally, I note that the media plays a big role in how society forms

prejudice views, especially towards blacks. Author?s Kurt K. and Jason T.

surveyed the media for a report and stated: One of the most influential and most

prominate forms of media is the television. Many young Americans watch music

videos, which depict blacks as gangsters, drug dealers, and murderers. Many

movies also seem to show this portrayal of blacks, such as Boyz in the Hood, a

black film about life in the Los Angels community. Newspapers and news shows

report the crimes of blacks because it is more interesting but this form of news

is dangerously influencing young Americans to perceive blacks in a negative

manner. (1997, Internet) Prejudice 10 Changing the media?s portrayal of

prejudice in our society will help people overcome their stereotypes and

discrimination of other groups. All three of these solutions are a good first

step in overcoming prejudice, but no one solution will be the only answer to

solving the problem in our society. Applying all three solutions, education,

reformed media, and continuous passage of new laws will help squash prejudice at

its roots. Conclusion There are many contributing factors to the roots of

prejudice in our society, no one factor greater than the other does. Certainly,

upbringing and environment seems to be an inherit factor that leads to

traditional views of prejudice. While media, experiences and economic factors

contribute to the on-going problem of prejudice in our society. The solution to

overcoming prejudice in our society seems to lie in the ability to educate and

train our children from a young age. This will help give children the tools and

skills necessary for stopping the spread of prejudice in our society. Also,

reform of the media?s portrayal of gender stereotypes and racial stereotypes

need to be addressed. In order to fulfill a society with gender equality, we

must allow women to hold higher jobs and positions of authority throughout our

society. After all, women make up over half of the world?s population. No one

solution will be the only contributing factor in changing societies

traditionally held prejudice, but a combination of all three will help stop

prejudice at its roots. Finally, we as society must want to change as whole in

order to stop prejudice. Our society has taken a lot of steps in the past 400

years in overcoming prejudice as whole, but we still are a long ways away from

achieving complete gender, racial, religious and ethnic harmony. As quoted by

Maya Angelou, ?We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry,

and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in

Prejudice 11 value no matter what their color.? Or as Gavin Bush say?s,

?Racism is a product of fear and ignorance. The world is richer for the

mixture of different types of people?live and let life remove fear.?


Hutchinson, E. (1996). Beyond O.J.race, sex, and class lessons for america.

Middle Passage Press Goldfield, D. (1990). Black and white and southern race

relations and southern culture 1940 to present. Louisiana State University Press

Baron, R. & Byrne, D. (2000). Social psychology ninth edition. A Pearson

Education Company Versaware Inc, (1999). Internet, www.funkandwagnalls.com Aull,

B. (1999). Internet, www.artstistsagainstracism.com/educate. Sklar, H. (1995,

South End Press) Internet, www.southend.press. Angelou, M. & Gavin, B.

(1999) Internet, www.artstistsagainstracism.com/educate.

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