Attitudes, Racism and Culture

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Psychology Research Essay: Attitudes, Racism and Culture

Focus: Simple interpersonal contact is not sufficient enough to reduce prejudiced attitudes. Prejudice is most likely to be reduced when several factors are in effect. _________________________________________________________

Attitudes are long term ideas individuals hold about themselves, objects, other people and issues. They have three components; affect (feelings), behaviour (actions) and cognition (thoughts). Attitudes are not something individuals are born with; they are learned from direct experiences and interaction with others.

Attitudes are developed from the culture in which we live. In the movie “Remember the Titans” the students initially had negative attitudes towards students of the opposite race. Their parents, who might have had negative attitudes from past culture and experiences, influenced their attitudes. Derogatory expressions and their parents’ views played in role in the formation of their own attitudes. The culture of the society in America at the time had also affected how the students had formed their attitudes. African-Americans had been made ‘equal’ yet material evidence of this in society was not evident, prejudices had not yet died out of society. For races to integrate was not yet socially and culturally acceptable and the students were either brought up in the society and culture to believe and have attitudes that the races were not equal or they were afraid to single-handedly break the barriers society had built.

Social values are what people in and as a community think. They are the standards in social life which are considered to be important. In “Remember the Titans” each race or community had their own social values. The white Caucasian community held appearances, religion (presumably Christianity), education, and money, and relationships, among other things, as social values. The African-American community, coming from a past of limited freedom, valued freedom, friendship amongst themselves or fraternity, music and dance and their past as important standards in their social life. It is important to note that both racial groups had a common social value, football, which initially neither realised they shared. It is also important to note that neither of the groups valued inter-racial friendships or relationships which they come to value at the end.

Stereotypes are fixed impressions and exaggerated ideas about particular social groups and are usually based on physical appearances. Stereotypes are a type of social categorisation and can be seen as the process of referring to a group which is believed to be associated with a person and describing the person with reference to the group. Stereotypes are dangerous as they are simplified ideas which over generalize and do not include all or most individuals. Stereotypes are used to strengthen an individuals own identity. In “Remember the Titans”, the white Caucasian boy, Gary Butier, insults an African-American by suggesting that he might not have a father or if he did his father might not have a job. He said this because of the stereotype at the time that African-American men did not have jobs or did not stick with their families. This stereotype or generalization originated from the 1920s, after the war, when African-Americans were discriminated against and could not find jobs easily and would often have to leave their families. Another example of a stereotype from the movie is that Caucasians are racist towards African-Americans. This is dangerous as it does not include individuals who are not racist towards African-Americans such as the ‘fat kid’ who does not discriminate against the African-Americans. Initially this is a shock to the African-Americans because of the stereotype and the prejudice formed because of it.

Stereotypes are the basis of prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is bias, the negative opinions, beliefs, feelings and judgments held about...
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