Break Down One Prejudice Each Day

· July 19, 2016

Throughout each day, without being aware of it, we say things that show our prejudices towards other people, groups of people, or situations.

The word “prejudice” comes from the Latin “praeiudicium,” which translates to “previous judgment.” Therefore, prejudice is the act of prejudging things or people without knowing it.

“Prejudice is the child of ignorance.”

-William Hazlitt-

Prejudice is a habitually negative attitude towards someone or something, which tends to be generalized. There are two consequences of prejudice:

  • We develop a mental schema that organizes information incorrectly.
  • It generates not only negative evaluations, but also negative emotions.

Types of prejudice

There are many different types of prejudice: religious, political, racial, gender, etc. But we can highlight two major groups:

Social prejudices

These arise from differences in social position and the desire to justify and maintain these differences.

Social prejudices make one believe that a man in a suit and tie is more dependable than someone who looks poor. This information stays in our brain, regardless of whether it’s true or not.

Racial prejudices

These derive from the color of people’s skin.

A group of psychologists from New York University, led by Elisabeth Phelps, performed a study that found that many people make decisions based on unconscious racial prejudices.

The study asked 50 people of different racial backgrounds to rate the reliability of individuals of different races represented in over 300 photographs, on a scale from 1 to 9.

They found that the perceived reliability of each person was linked to race. These unconscious prejudices, said Phelps, play a role when we rapidly evaluate a stranger that we don’t have much information about.

Characteristics of prejudice

All prejudices share the following characteristics:

They have damaging effects

They’re value judgments about groups of people based on insufficient or incomplete information. Sometimes prejudices persist despite having all the necessary information.

They imply resistance to change

Prejudices are very difficult to eliminate, because people believe in their accuracy. This sense of conviction prevents change.

Break down one prejudice each day!

A good recipe for survival and happiness is to break down one prejudice each day.

open your minds

How can you do that? Here’s some advice:

Take your time to get to know people

Before you say or think something about someone, take your time to get to know them well, to find out who they are. They might pleasantly surprise you if you give them the chance. You often learn more from differences than similarities.

Don’t do to other people what you wouldn’t want them to do to you

If you don’t like people criticizing you for no reason and without knowing you, don’t do it to them either. Respect others the way you would like to be respected.

Develop empathy

Think about how the other person feels and put yourself in their place. We don’t know what life has done to other people, and we often come to conclusions without having enough information. Listen attentively and enjoy the possibility of understanding and getting to know other people.

Discover your prejudices and promise to change

Reflect on what you think about people that belong to certain groups or races and promise yourself that you will change.

Appreciate diversity and learn from differences. 

Diversity is enriching. The more different people you know, the more points of view you’ll have and the more ideas they’ll contribute about topics that you might not have known about, or didn’t know well.

Accept differences

It’s impossible to understand and share everything, because each group has their own customs, but maybe someone else from another group doesn’t understand your customs. You don’t always have to understand your differences, you just have to accept them.

“What a sad time we live in! It’s easier to disintegrate an atom than a prejudice.”

-Albert Einstein-