In today’s diverse society, we must learn to cope with many groups of people different from ourselves. Whether the difference is ethnic, religious, or professional, we always tend to attach some undesirable quality to it. Often, this results in stereotypes and, of course, prejudice.
Stereotypes are one of the main types of prejudice. Almost everyone uses them, and not many of us are even aware of it. For example, a friend of mine once said, “Saudi kids are so rude!” I knew she was just using this as a lead-in to tell me about an incident involving both herself and Saudi Arabian kids. However, I was offended by her comment, and I pointed out to her that she was attributing rudeness to all Saudi kids. Because I have many Saudi friends myself, I knew the duplicity of her remark.
My “prejudiced” friend also attempted to entertain me with jokes about Sikhs and Hindus. Personally, I knew she was not directly ridiculing these two religious groups. On the other hand, this “light-hearted” prejudice may seem serious to someone else. She probably had heard these jokes from someone else and was just repeating them jocularly. Sadly, many forms of prejudice are inherited in this manner; however, it’s intent is rarely that of malice.
Prejudice and bias may also spring up in the wake of an unfavorable incident involving a group or any of its members. For instance, just walking through the hallways in school, I am bound to overhear at least twenty students each day complaining about some teacher. “You know, I really hate Mr. So-and-so,” a student grumbles, “he just gave me a ‘C’ on my project!” Such comments may have lasting effects on the attitudes of others, many of whom refuse to think for themselves and just accept, without verification, the opinions/biases of others.
It is quite evident that discrimination is passed from person to person, sometimes unknowingly. However, no matter what its intent, prejudice is very harmful, especially to the groups of people it is aimed at.