The Impact of Prejudice and Discrimination on Society

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Equal opportunities Assignment 1

This report will attempt to explain the meaning and implications of the terms Prejudice, Discrimination, Stereotyping, and Scapegoat. It will also look at two case studies in order to illustrate prejudice and discrimination in action.

Prejudice and Discrimination
Prejudice and Discrimination are difficult to separate as they typically appear together. Prejudice is defined as “A preconceived opinion”. while Discrimination is defined as “Biased or unfavourable treatment”, both taken from Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus 3 (Oxford University Press, 2001). Discrimination converts the mental process of prejudice into action. It is wildly accepted that discrimination is the action, while prejudice is the thought.

Both of these terms can be used in a positive sense in an attempt add a modicum of equality to society. For example, disabled drivers receive the most convenient parking spaces and people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia receive extra assistance within the education system. However this can often leave other sections of the the population feeling prejudiced and/or discriminated against.

Prejudice and discrimination are more often seen for their negative impact on society; the treatment of blacks in the US during the 19th and 20th century, and Hitler's treatment of the Jews during WW2 are examples of prejudice leading to discrimination. In both of these scenarios the seeds of prejudice filtered down from the higher echelons of power. The white population of America were told that blacks were second class citizens; the population believed their government would only tell them the truth, and this propaganda set the seeds of prejudice, and discrimination began to blossom. Hitler persecuted the Jews because he hated them. He blamed them for Germany’s economic and social problems. The Jews were also blamed for Germany's defeat in World War 1. The German people took the prejudice from their government and implemented state sponsored discrimination on their behalf.

Stereotyping
Stereotype is defined as “A person or thing seeming to conform to a widely accepted type”, Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus 3 (Oxford University Press, 2001). “A stereotype is a one sided, exaggerated and normally prejudicial view of a group” states The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology, fourth edition, (Penguin Group, 2000). For prejudice and discrimination to exist there must be a set of preconceived stereotypes. These are a set of simplistic generalizations about a group that allows others to categorize them and treat them accordingly.

Humans practice the art of stereotyping all the time, it is instinctive. For instance, when a young black man has a expensive car, there are sections of the population which would immediately stereotype him as a criminal. A man wearing a tight fitting shirt and displaying effeminate behaviour would be stereotyped as a homosexual. Stereotyping is more synonymous with race, gender and sexuality. In Nazi Germany racial stereotyping was used to great effect. Hitler used age-old stereotypes about Jews cheating with money, he also stereotyped the Jews as trouble makers who were in league with communists and other hated groups perceived as trying to harm the German people.

Scapegoat
A Scapegoat is defined as “a person blamed for others faults” Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus 3 (Oxford University Press, 2001). This process is an inherent developmental factor of life. It is caused by the human need to absolve itself of sin. The term itself dates back to the bible, Aaron sent a goat in the the wilderness to die, the goat was said to have been embodied with the sins of all the Jews thus giving us the term scape goat. Human sacrifice was the sacrifice of a scapegoat, the victim was dying for the benefit of the whole community. It was said this would appease the gods. Hitler made German Jews scapegoats, he blamed them for Germany's economic and social problems.....
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