I believe some people hold negative stereotypes as a way to eliminate the challenge of understanding people who are different from themselves. The majority of stereotypes are inaccurate, and are used to separate "their" behavior from "my" behavior. When people don't agree with, or like the way another culture behaves because it is different, it is perceived as wrong, and results in negative stereotyping. When people stereotype they get caught up in the issue of that's what "they do" or that's how "those people" are, instead of being in touch with their true feelings.
Racial stereotypes develop in a variety of ways. On a basic level, it is human nature to categorize people. It is a way of making a complex world easier to understand. Furthermore, the less contact people have with a particular group, the more likely they will develop negative feelings about that group. Also, any negative experiences that a person has with a particular group; it will reinforce their negative racial stereotypes about that particular group. Once these fears are developed it creates an us-versus-them mindset, and then develops into a self defensive coping mechanism.
Childhood socialization can most definitely be a positive influence in developing the attitudes towards racial, ethnic or religious groups. From an early age, people learn to place one another into categories. As I previously mentioned, the less contact people have with a particular racial group, the more likely they will develop negative feeling about that group. In effect, the more a child is socialized with other racial groups the less likely they will develop negative feelings about that group. As a result of early childhood socialization they will not miss out on significant life experiences and may actually learn to value and appreciate people who are "different" from themselves.
I am not sure if I will see racial discrimination or prejudice put to an end in my lifetime, but I do think we can...
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