Prejudice and discrimination

Discrimination is “involving harmful actions toward others because of their membership in a particular group.”Prejudice, on the other hand “is an antipathy based on faulty and inflexible generalization.” Among the groups subjected to this matter are the deaf, mentally retarded, opposite sex and ethnic groups. The cultural history of discrimination toward the deaf in the United States has occurred in the field of education, where the hearing norm regulate the design of educational systems. The norms of the society influence the normative behavior of the people and establish power-conflict relations. These are the important components of prejudice and discrimination that has been developed over time. Prejudice and discrimination in relation to gender differences begins with a historical overview of American gender relations, from the earliest colonial settlements, established a cultural custom in which women were inferior to men. This is evident through the efforts of women to struggle for an expansion of legal rights, acquiring roles in the society, employment and educational opportunities, position in domestic life, and control over sexuality and childbirth. Prejudice and discrimination based on race and ethnic is the most arbitrary and the most superficial. History has proven race bias to be deeply influential and pervasive in American culture. This is due to the deep societal injury suffered as a consequence of African slavery (Fishbein, 2002).

The origins of prejudice and discrimination

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Our genetic and evolutionary heritage has predisposed us to develop prejudice toward and discrimination against outgroup members. There is evolutionary based genetic model that accounts for species-wide behavioral constancies. The model draws heavily from the work of Waddington (1957), Fishbein (1976), G. Gottlieb (1991), and Lumsden and E.O. Wilson (1981). The essence of the model is that genes, anatomy, behavior and social and physical environments operate to direct and correct psychological development. Additionally, genes and culture co-evolve such that species-specific characteristics are sustained across generations. Humans are socially operating with mental structures evolved for hunter-gatherer modes of existence. Prejudice and discrimination have their roots in this tribal organization. There are three genetic/evolutionary factors that form the bases of prejudice and discrimination, and one factor that tends to counteract these prepositions. The first three factors are ingroup favoritism based on inclusive fitness, authority-bearing systems based on the emergence of cultural sociogenetic systems, and intergroup hostility, based on intergroup relations of the common ancestors of gorillas, chimpanzees and human hunter-gatherers. The fourth factor is outgroup attractiveness, based on the necessity of maintaining within-group genetic variability in order to accommodate to environmental changes, and to prevent the deleterious effects of excessive inbreeding and genetic drift. Lumsden and Wilson (1981) explained how genes and culture coevolved—how systematic changes in human genetic structure led to systematic changes in the nature of human culture and vice-versa. From molecular level to population level, their linkage reflects the translation of genes into culture and how evolutionary processes operating on a population of individuals influence gene frequencies.

Eliminating prejudice and discrimination

Parents and peers have influences on transmitting prejudice to children and adolescents. On the other hand, strong and consistent relationships have been found between several personality traits and prejudice, suggesting that some traits predispose individuals to accept societal messages about prejudice, and other traits, to reject these messages. In order to modify prejudice, similarities should be emphasized and group differences minimized. Vicarious interactions, such as through mass media programs, and especially television, can probably substitute to some extent for personal interactions. Authorities, on the other hand, can be a major vehicle for modifying prejudice. Authorities should promote changes of attitudes and behavior for ingroup members, and condemn prejudice and discrimination through legislated desegregation at work and at school. Example of programs or event that is very much effective is the declaration of February as “Black History Month” to remind Americans of the role that black people have played in U.S. history and in the growth of the nation. By looking on the positive qualities (outgroup attraction) in many outgroup members and by identifying similarities between various groups, favoritism will become widespread throughout the new inclusive group. Parents are the most powerful influences for acquiring prejudice and discrimination followed by the peer group (Sorrentino, 1986).

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