Can prejudice ever be eliminated? What exactly is prejudice? Contrary to popular belief, prejudice is not the same as discrimination, even though both terms are usually tossed into the fray together. Prejudice refers to the prejudgment; where people make assumptions or decisions even before being aware of the relevant facts. On the other hand, discrimination refers to the treatment or distinction in favour or against a particular person, group or class. That being said, prejudice would certainly be much more widespread in societies all over the world as compared to discrimination.
After all, prejudice can manifest in a society in various different ways, such as racism, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) violence, hate crimes and gender bias just to name a few. In Singapore, we are fortunate to not have to witness heinous crimes based on peoples’ prejudice against others with the government’s tough stance against such acts. This and other examples may just provide the slim chance of which the abolishment of prejudice in society may become a reality, as further discussions would attempt to show that prejudice may possibly be eradicated.
Firstly, prejudice is actually not part of human nature, which is contrary to popular belief. A German social psychologist, Hofstatter, had suggested in 1954 that prejudice against members of other groups represents a “normal” phenomenon of human social life and that no one is free from this attitude. This would be an extreme conclusion as the absence of prejudice among young children show that prejudice is not innate, but learned.
Children are brought into the world without bias and thus learn from those with close relations to them, learning their parent’s ethnic attitudes and even from the media.
For example, the idea of white superiority and racism may have been implied in the American comedy “Friends”, where the entire cast are white people. Secondly, true to the Herd Mentality, societal pressures cause individuals to succumb other people’s prejudices. Media and other people in our lives shape the way we think. In order to conform to society and thus ‘fit in’, individuals would begin to formulate personal opinions based on the information obtained from social circles, family and of course, the media.
Should these factors be subject to change, it would be possible to alter the mindset of the individual with respect to his or her prejudices. Thirdly, the lack of personal interaction with the group in question would undoubtledly lead to prejudgements. For example, the Israel and Palestinian hostilities are fuelled by the underlying prejudices among Israelis against Muslims and Palestinians against Jews. The closed border between Israel and Palestine just adds fuel to the fire, as the younger generations grow up with the predetermined mindset that people across the border were savage monsters, even if that was not the case.
If people actually sat down around a table and got to know each other before they had the chance to judge each other, then there would be much less prejudice in the world today. When it comes to actually attempting to abolish prejudice thinking, there are certain aspects worth considering, namely the society, the individual, the government and the family. One way in which prejudice can be eliminated is through the education of young minds in schools. As previously mentioned, young children are not prejudiced against anyone and would thereafter pick up such prejudices from society.
By teaching these children be open to multiple points of view and not be biased against certain people and viewpoints, we would then be able to prevent prejudicial thinking. This was demonstrated by Jane Elliot and her books “A Class Divided” as well as the documentary “The Eye Of The Storm” illustrates her famous “brown-eyed/blue-eyed” exercise. When utilised properly, education would have a powerful effect on young children. Another way in which prejudice can be eliminated would be through the family.
Traditionally, individuals would spend the most amount of time with their parents. In these changing times, however, more and more parents are unable to spend time with their children and teach them the right moral values due to long working hours and school hours. Recently, the State Of The Family Report for 2011 found that the average number of hours that parents spend with their children was 29 hours per week. With less time to spend with their children, how would parents cultivate moral values and in their children?
Furthermore, the conservative nature of Singapore households prevents seemingly sensitive topics from being brought up. Topics such as the LGBT community and feminism are seldom brought up, due to the reluctance of parents to fully explain the situation to their children. All these factors limit the role of parents when it comes to the teaching of moral values and mindsts. After all, not everything in life can be taught in a classroom. The government can also play a vital role in ensuring the abolishment of prejudice in society.
The Singaporean government is playing a vital role in ensuring racial stability in Singapore. By ensuring that racist and insensitive comments are dealt with appropriately, it sends a message to the younger generation that being prejudiced is against the country’s morals and values. Furthermore, policies implemented by the government can help the financially troubled and close the income gap. This is just one of the ways that the government can step in to reduce prejudice from an economics point of view. Lastly, the thinking of the individual plays a very important part in the abolishment of prejudice.
Individuals need to filter out the material that they encounter such that there are able to identify the right from the wrong. One good way of doing this would be through religion. Religion is able to provide a so-called ‘moral compass’ where religion will point the individual in the right direction, away from the prejudiced thoughts. Of course, as much as religion would be able to provide a moral foundation for the individual, it would also be a mistake to delve into the depths of extreme forms of religion, where words are twisted from their true meaning and the whole point of using religion as a moral guideline backfires.
Prejudice may or may not be eliminated from the face of the Earth, we cannot tell presently. As prejudiced as the world may be as of now, with gay marriage legalisation being strongly protested and religious conflicts all over the world today, it is very difficult to believe that prejudice can be eliminated in our lifetime. However, as previously mentioned, should we take a collective approach in teaching the younger generation to live without prejudice, then the elimination of prejudiced thinking may just become a reality in the future.