Reading: The Nature of Prejudice

The Nature of Prejudice is based on Allport’s definition of prejudice as “a hostile attitude or feeling toward a person solely because he or she belongs to a group to which one has assigned objectionable qualities.” I appreciated the article’s distinction that people are not born prejudiced, it’s something that is learned. This gives me hope that prejudice is, therefore, something that can also be unlearned. The article also discusses the interplay of prejudice towards the individual versus the group. In some of my earlier discussions, people have pointed out prejudice can be developed both ways between an individual and group. If, for instance, an Asian female driver cuts you off, you may find that as further proof that all Asian females are bad drivers. Likewise, your pre-existing prejudice against Asian female drivers may make you even more critical and impatient with the specific Asian female driver who cut you off. It would be important to dissemble prejudice by pulling apart the distinct individual (humanizing them) from the group you associate them with. 

“It is a judgment that resists facts and ignores truth and honesty. Thus, prejudice blinds one to the facts and creates a kind of poison in a relationship.”

I also found it important that the article mentioned the “value” people feel through prejudice:

“Prejudice gives an individual a false sense of identity and self-worth; that is, a person may discriminate against others to make himself feel more powerful and to elevate his own self-esteem.”

It makes me wonder about how we may measure or convey the value of unlearning prejudice.

Lastly, my biggest takeaway from the article was the distinction between prejudice and discrimination, including the escalation of discrimination. The article distinguishes discrimination as prejudice which is acted upon.

“As a rule, discrimination has more immediate and serious social consequences than has prejudice.”

Acted out prejudice manifests in the following, increasingly negative stages:

  1. Antiloculation (Antipathetic): Individual talks about their prejudices, mainly with like-minded friends, sometimes with strangers; article notes that most people stay in this phase
  2. Avoidance: Individual actively avoids members of the group they don’t like, sometimes at considerable inconvenience; burden of accommodation is upon the individual
  3. Discrimination: Individual makes detrimental distinctions; actively excludes all members of the group from opportunities, such as employment, educational opportunities, hospitals, etc; segregation is an institutionalized form of discrimination
  4. Physical Attack: Individual, under heightened emotion prejudice, leads to violence or semi-violence (i.e. threats)
  5. Extermination: Ultimate violent expression of prejudice

The author notes that while most people will stay in the stage of antiloculation, activity within stages makes it escalate the way they act out on prejudice. This reminded me of the Hidden Brain episode: Romeo and Juliet in Kigali where they talk about how genocide (stage 5 extermination) is the result of a slow escalation of violence and prejudice. There is a steep danger in people becoming more and more comfortable with devaluing and dehumanizing individuals according to groups.

APA Citation: Allport, G. W., Clark, K., & Pettigrew, T. (1954). The nature of prejudice.

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