Racism And Prejudice


Racism And Prejudice Essay, Research Paper



May 27, 1998

Racism and Prejudice


People of the world are part of different races, which share different biologically transmitted traits that members of society deem socially significant. Nineteenth-century biologist labeled people with relatively light skin and fine hair as Caucasians; they called those with darker skin and coarser, curlier hair Negroid; and people with yellow or brown skin and distinctive folds on the eyelids were termed Mongoloid.

Sociologist consider such categories misleading since we now know that no society is composed of biologically pure individuals because of the human migration and the interracial births. People with different races have different ethnicity or different shared cultural heritage. Members of an ethnic category have common ancestor, language, or religion that, together, confer a distinctive social identity. Race and ethnicity are different since one is biological and the other is cultural. But the two sometimes go hand in hand. Some people distinguished by physical or cultural traits are socially disadvantaged, this category of persons is called a racial or ethnic minority. Minorities share the same identity; they are set apart and subordinated.

Minorities often suffer from prejudice what is a rigid and irrational generalization about an entire category of people with little regard for the facts. Prejudices can be positive or negative. Prejudices combine to form a stereotype which involves emotions like love and loyalty generally toward members of ingroups or hate and fear toward outgroups, they are exaggerated images that are hard to change even in the face of contradictory evidence.

Racism is a more powerful and destructive form of prejudice, racism refers to the belief that one racial category is innately superior or inferior to another. Today, racism remains a serious social problem everywhere as people still contend that some racial and ethnic categories are “better” than others are.

Social scientist have came up with various theories to explain prejudice. The first hypothesis is the scapegoat theory holds that prejudice springs from frustration. The authoritarian personality theory follows it, which states that extreme prejudice was a personality trait of particular individuals. The third approach holds that, some prejudice is common to everyone since such attitudes are embedded in culture. The last views claims that powerful people utilize prejudice as a strategy to oppress minorities. Closely related to prejudice is the concept of discrimination, any action that involves treating various categories of people unequally. Like prejudice, discrimination can be either positive ( providing special advantages ) or negative.

Social scientist describe patterns of interaction among racial and ethnic categories in terms of four models; Pluralism, assimilation, segregation, and genocide.

Pluralism is a state in which racial and ethnic minorities are distinct but have social parity. Pluralism is the goal of our society’s recent trend toward multiculturalism.

Assimilation is the process by which minorities gradually adopt patterns of the dominant culture. This involves changing modes of dress, values religion, language, or friends. Not surprisingly, elite’s tend to favor the assimilation model since it holds them up as the standard to which others should aspire.

Segregation refers to the physical and social separation of categories of people. Until the early 1960’s, the “Jim Crow” laws formally segregated hotels, restaurants, parks, buses and even drinking fountains. Some minorities, especially religious orders like Amish, they voluntarily segregated themselves.

The most brutal form of racism is the genocide which is the systematic annihilation of one category of people by another. This happened during the course of history when the nazis exterminated more than 6 million Jewish man, woman, and children in what has become the Holocaust. Also in Cambodia between 1975 and 1980, Pol Pot’s communist regime condemned to death 2million people for being able to speak any Western language and even individuals who wore eyeglasses, viewed as a symbol of capitalist culture.


I gave surveys to 24 randomly selected students from the Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro. The surveyed group of students was equally divided into males and females. With the help of the survey I wanted to find out if people discriminate or prejudice minorities and if they do so which gender does is more racist. The survey consisted of three parts.

The first part of the survey showed a picture of a white skin colored person and an Afro-American person, than the surveyed person was asked to choose one of the pictures for a business magazine article. For males male pictures were used and for females female pictures were used in the survey.

The second part of the survey asked the surveyed person that how would he/she fell if his/her best friend would get married to someone of a different ethnic race or religion. The possible answers were strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree, strongly disagree.

The third part of the survey stated a sentence saying that the school should give scholarships to intelligent minority students. Than the surveyed person had to mark his feelings in a multiple choice list were the possible answers were strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree, strongly disagree.

Result of males

Result of females


In the first part of the survey the males tended to favor more the look of the picture than the photo’s race. Women tended to show a little negative discrimination towards the colored person picture.

In the second part of the survey both of the genders encouraged interracial marriage and neither of the to sexes disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The third part of the survey showed a big difference between the two genders and their responds for the scholarship question. The males favored the scholarships of intelligent minority students and none of the disagreed or strongly disagreed. On the other hand the females showed a more discriminative behavior 8% of them strongly disagreed and 17% disagreed, only 33% agreed and 17% strongly agreed.

The overall conclusion shows that females tend to discriminate and prejudice more than males. This answer could be misleading because only 24 people were surveyed and also could be that the females read and answers the questions more carefully than the males.

Article review

The first article dealt with the interesting question of does race affect intelligence. The author states that race is related to intelligence of course he is aware that claims of this kinds are explosive because they fly in the face of our democratic and egalitarian beliefs by implying that people of one racial type are inherently “better” than another. Therefore he ask the next question which is ” is intelligence the work of nature, in which case disparities signal that one race is actually superior to another one, or does it reflect the forces of nurture or environment? ” The article draws the conclusion that cultural patterns matter, because genetic changes occur thousands of years and these people largely intermarried among themselves. “Nature” simply cannot explain such a dramatic rise in IQ scores.

Chapter 12 talks about the difference between the race and ethnicity. This chapter explains how people prejudice minorities and gives various theories of prejudice. The chapter also explicates what is a stereotype and racism, describes discrimination, pluralism, assimilation, segregation and genocide.

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