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Often it is considered that racism is one form of judging others and distinguishing one lot of people from the others. However, discrimination is used for all aspects of judging other people, not only on the basis of their skin color or their belonging, but for all the reasons for which people can consider themselves superior to others. Why people discriminate has several reasons that range from a feeling of superiority that is either passed on through the generations, the presence of stereotypes in the society and perhaps low self-esteem that causes people to discriminate.
Discrimination is basically defined as treating some people differently from the way one would treat others. (HRLSC). It can be done on the basis of someone’s caste, creed, religion, ethnic belonging, racial background, financial status and lifestyle and in another sense, it is the act of favoritism or distinction in areas like one’s workplace or their designation. Discrimination is political, civic, economic and social. Little is realized while discriminating against an individual that discrimination is a clear and direct violation of human rights that clearly states “all people are equal in dignity and entitled to the same fundamental rights.” (Acas.org).
It is stated by social psychologists that discrimination is an outcome of prejudice; a feeling of irrational hate and dislike toward another group of people or a person and discrimination is then the behavior that a person has against that group. One can take the example of the holocaust, the great Jewish genocide that was all due to a simple prejudice against the Jewish religion and race of the Jews that lead to mass killings of Jews during World War II. The reason for killing the Jewish race may never be fully known, however, usually if a person is killed or sentenced to death it is done so because that person is found guilty of committing a certain crime. Yet the Jews, men, women, and children were simply killed because they were Jews. It is this discriminatory attitude that precedes many examples of why people discriminate.
The reason for discrimination is sometimes very simple and understandable. Prejudices arise because of low self-esteem. (HRLSC).When people hate on certain groups or individuals present in minorities, they feel their self-esteem come up and feel more confident about themselves. It gives them a feeling of ‘importance’ and enhances their pride. However, the basic most reason of discrimination is “Socialization” or the norm it becomes in society. (Acas.org). This is done by the process of the genes- a prejudice or belief is passed down from generation to generation. There are certain stereotypes that are fed to children and the general public via the media, television and through advertising and movies. The movies and advertising will bring about discriminatory views related to women, the elderly, the black race and other ethnic minorities and disabled persons. These will also bring about judging and biased opinions about the third gender, homosexuals, and bisexuals. People will then form the opinion based on what they have perceived and that will apply to all minorities and targeted people in general. This is also related to a mindset and mentality as there stands the example of a white man who got mugged by a black man and after the incident he began to hate the black race in general and formed an opinion about them based on one single man. Also, there will be many white people who will stand against a black person who speaks against a white person or his prejudiced ways. To perceive the black race as a criminal minded or destructive race is simply discrimination and it is seen in cases where black people are arrested for drug abuse or gun shots whereas less white men are trialed for such cases. This plainly shows that the police, too, carries out discrimination. The reasons stand the need to remain superior and to assert power over one race.
However, sometimes people do know that they are doing wrong by discriminating. Yet they continue to do so because if they quit being prejudiced they might lose the social support they have. This conformation to behaviors of others is a leading factor in which people often discriminate against others. (Gneezy, List, and Price). An example of this can be the studious and less popular girls in school who are ridiculed and judged by others only because they are not as much of attention-seekers as the rest. They are bullied at school, called names and every effort is made to crush their spirit. Since the girls who are doing so are popular and are in the eyes of everyone, the rest of the school will stand with them and bully the rest. But they might not speak against this because it might render them uncool, and they shall be excluded from the circle of social acceptability made by the most popular members of their school. Examples can extend to the family as well.
Another major reason for why people discriminate against others is that involving an Authoritarian Personality.(Gneezy, List, and Price). There are many people who have strict beliefs about certain people and their related issues, and they find it very hard to give up on their beliefs. This is also related to unconscious, and repressed fears in their minds that are never resolved, and they remain a part of their personalities. Such people are usually unable to question their superiors about the reasons for discrimination, and they carry in the trend by enforcing rigid views about someone’s sexuality, beliefs and outward appearance as well as many other factors. It may be largely under the influence of guardians and parents who are not loving enough and do not take to the lighter side of disciplining and controlling their children. These children then grow in a fear of upsetting or incurring the disfavor of their parents by covering their anxieties about the discrimination in the face of rigidity in acceptance of others’ views and general biases.
Ethnocentric reasons are a major cause of discrimination. It is basically a judgment of another culture or another culture’s values on the basis of one’s own culture. (EYCB).This involves having a stereotypical thinking and judging without knowing reasons or having any concern with it. Ethnocentrism arises in many areas of one’s life; cultural and religious, work and employment and general day-to-day issues. This can be seen in the form of discrimination against Sikh and Muslim individuals living in America or any European country, facing discrimination and being called names only because they dress differently and need to wear a turban on their heads. Similarly, the Muslim women face discrimination at the hands of wearing a full outer garment and covering their heads and at times, face, with a veil. They are also called names and ridiculed openly and discreetly. (Acas.org). The reason why people do this is because they have stereotypical views about their culture, thinking the women are suppressed hence they need to cover themselves up, and the men are probably backward and old-fashioned, which is why they wear turbans. Little do these people know about their culture, customs and traditional and religious views, yet they will not refrain from passing any remarks because their culture is superior to others’ in all respects. This is discrimination. There are times when the people who have always been discriminating against other people need to maintain their image and reputation- that of superiority over the other group, which is why they will not give up discrimination.(Gneezy, List, and Price).
Generally it is people who hold the upper hand, who have always had the higher say or they are the ones that have the authority to control and handle everything feel that they can never give in to competition. Therefore, they will keep up a discriminatory attitude against those they fear will bring them down. This is a fear from the minority groups and individuals belonging to them. In such cases, the ones that are superior can even resort to violence against the minority groups where they only wish to maintain the upper hand and nothing else. (Gneezy, List, and Price).
Examples of such discrimination are seen at the workplace. Men will see women as competition and they might see that a woman is just as qualified as another man for the job, yet they will not do justice to her and they will pay her less than a man who might have been designated in her place. Similarly, women are discriminated against even today as being bad drivers, even though women occupy important positions in the Air force and are practically involved in every other working field as men. Sometimes, women are fired from jobs when they are pregnant because the employee feels she cannot work well with a child. These are assumed opinions and people who are in authority and hold high offices cannot help but hold these biases against certain groups and members.
Therefore, people discriminate against other people due to many reasons, such as a generation-to-generation prejudice, an authoritarian personality, ethnocentrism, need for support from a favored group and discrimination due to position and being in majority. Discrimination is sometimes harmful to individuals, and it can also harm others. Hence, discrimination needs to be stopped, checked and avoided at all levels to prevent anyone from getting harmed, both physically and emotionally.
Acas.org. Race Discrimination. ACAS. 2015. Web. 13 July 2015.
EYCB. Discrimination. EYCB.Coe. 2015. Web. 13 July 2015.
Gneezy, Uri, List, John and Price K. Michael.Toward an Understanding of Why People Discriminate: Evidence from a Series of Natural Field Experiments. The National Bureau of Economic Research. 2012. Web. 13 July 2015.
HRLSC. What is Discrimination? Human Rights Legal Support Centre. 2015. Web. 13 July,