Prejudice is described as a preconceived notion harbored against a particular group or a person based on the nationality, race, caste, color, sex, sexual preferences, creed or other personal preferences. The concept has been debated ferociously by psychologists and social researchers. Some have called it a personality trait or habit, while others have described it merely as an emotion. Studies and experiments which have been conducted in this regard, go on to prove that more often than not, prejudice comes about due to conformity to social norms. In this regard, the words 'antipathy' and discrimination are closely linked with prejudice.
Though prejudice may not always be negative, over the last century, prejudice and discrimination have been spoken of in the same breath. This has led to a negative connotation of prejudice.
Examples of Prejudice
# 1: If someone is walking in a secluded area in the night, and a group of senior citizens who are walking with canes in hand, come from the opposite side, the person will not feel threatened. However, if instead of senior citizens, three teenagers dressed in jeans and t-shirts with lots of metal chains around their neck are approaching from the other side, the person might feel threatened a bit, even without any kind of provocation from their end.
# 2: It is a general perception that people with mental illnesses are prone to violence. This perception has developed from the stereotypes portrayed in movies or written about in books, wherein a mentally ill person becomes violent and goes on a rampage. Although, there are a few isolated cases of mentally ill people, who have a tendency towards violence, yet, if we look at the statistics, they show that mentally ill people are no more violence prone than the normal people.
# 3: Human beings are categorized into a number of races, based on their geographical location, physical characteristics, culture, language and history. It is a social concept, not biological. For example, in America, there are Caucasians, African-Americans, Asians etc who differ from each other physically. However, being different no way makes a race superior or inferior to another. Yet, there are certain people who think, believe and act in ways that suggest that their race is superior to others. 'Racists' as they are referred to, are prejudiced and if you look at history, they have even resorted to violence against the races they considered inferior.
# 4: Gender discrimination, whether at the workplace or at home is another commonly observed prejudice that exists in today's society. An organization which hires more male candidates and rejects women (or vice versa), due to their gender, is said to be prejudiced. One more example is of an organization where women are hired equally, but not given top jobs. Such organizations are practicing gender discrimination too.
# 5: Instances of prejudices based on religion are found all over the world. Although, most religions preach tolerance and acceptance of other religions, yet, fanatics are found everywhere. Usually, it is seen that people who believe more in following the rituals and religious practices, rather than taking religion as a means to reach God, are more likely to engage in discrimination and prejudice against people who follow a religious belief other than theirs.
# 6: People belonging to one nation may sometimes discriminate against those that belong to some other country. This is especially true in case of a war or other conflicts between the two countries. In such circumstances, people belonging to the other country, with whom one is in conflict with, are considered outsiders and may even have to face hostility, especially if they happen to stay in the your country.
Looking at the various prejudice examples, it can be concluded that we are prejudiced against people, when we assume that they have certain characteristics. These assumptions develop when we do not have direct contact with them or we fear them due to they being a minority and different from us. Some might also be passed on from one generation to another such as those against women. Since prejudices are so widespread, in order to combat them, understanding their nature is very important. By spreading the message of brotherhood, developing understanding in people, educating people, making them aware, and promoting inter-group dialog, small steps towards a more tolerant and egalitarian society can be taken.