Cultural prejudice is like a virus that is transmitted from human to human and like a parasite eats up a society and its reasoning. These prejudices are reflected in our day to day life. How often we see a white women shying away from young African American male on the street reflecting the basic stereotyped assumptions that we make about others every day. These inevitable behaviors of which most of us are victims remain unresolved because of the unconscious state it has entered.
Likewise, people who have been victims of racism in the past develop an extreme judgmental attitude, often labeling a simple act as a racist, failing them to ever see well in others. Marilyn French, a feminist fiction writer, in her work on “Beyond Power: On Women, Men and Morals (1986),” interprets such bigot behavior as an outcome of a patriarchal world that is lured by power and control over women, children, property, and other men; and subsequently enticed with the idea of superiority using skin color, wealth, religion and ethnicity as its variable.
She suggests that the masculine principle is governed by aggressiveness which prevails over the cultural values ascribed to the feminine principle. Quoting from her work, “World wide patriarchal values and perspectives are so pervasive; many people believe them to be inevitable. Such thinkers believe feminine principle oriented cultures became instinct because of the superiority of Western patriarchy”. She further emphasizes that since western people are oriented in a masculine thought; its end result is anything but cultural prejudice.
Further, delving on this theory she suggests that we all are members of the “in- groups” that offers us a feeling of belongingness and comfort. And all others become members of the “out-groups”. It is taken as a fact that members of one group will always be antagonist to the members of the other group. Marilyn calls it a “self justifying dialogue that keeps us from self analysis mixing beliefs with attitudes and values, and morality with ethics” (French, 1985, p. 19).
We obediently keep practicing what we have been taught in our lifetime, i. . “what to think” of those who are members of the opposite group instead of “how to think” and in turn delaying our judgment about others. Our faculty has stopped responding to a logical reasoning and it has simply turned into a mechanical thought process. Leading all of us to becoming racist, ageist, and ethnocentric in this patriarchal culture.
An authoritarian personality clings on to the conventional values of their culture, and refuses at any time the need of self – introspection (Breslin, 1974, p. 51). While delving on this type, Mumia Abu-Jamal stands as a case in point. Mumia Abu – Jamal, a famous radio journalist in Philadelphia was also known as “the voice of the voiceless”. He used to report on issues concerning police brutality, misconduct and racism on the minority communities and especially, the African American community.
In 1981, he became a victim himself of things he always fought against. On December night, 1981, while driving a cab to supplement his income earned through journalism, Abu Jamal drove pass his brother who was being beaten up by the police officer, Daniel Faulkner for traffic violation. Shortly, a gun fire broke out leaving both the police officer and Abu- Jamal injured. Unfortunately, the officer succumbed to his injuries while Abu –Jamal recovered through a surgery. He was trialed for the Officer Daniel Faulkner’s murder case and given a death sentence.
However, at the insistence of Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham, Abu – Jamal is currently not facing the death penalty. This is a typical case of a social conflict between individuals and collectivities. Interpreting Abu – Jamal’s case through Lane Cormick’s work, this situation can be termed as a crisis. The media and many literary discussions have depicted this case as that of prejudice and racial discrimination. Race and ethnicity are hence, seen as the controlling dynamics in this case.
Dave Lindorff, an investigative reporter in his book on “ Killing Time: An Investigation Into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu – Jamal”, stated that at the time of Abu – Jamal’s arrest, the Philadelphia Police Department was indeed the most corrupt enforcement operations in the nation. Hence, the decision made by the United States’ judicial system , awarding death sentence to Abu- Jamal, based on the evidences put forth by the Philadelphia police has been widely criticized and challenged.
This decision has been labeled as an outcome of cultural prejudice in a society that stands as an epitome of liberty. The United States’ judicial system has been attributed for its racism and discrimination against defendants of color. Noam Chomsky while reflecting on this case called the U. S. prison system a class and a race war. He further emphasized that Abu – Jamal is just one illustration of what’s called “social cleansing” in US. Philadelphia police is known for its notoriety. The racist attitude that it thrives on is also not hidden from the public.
The killing of a young black man, Bryan Jones on the morning of January 1, 2007 is just one in a million cases reflecting brutality dipped with prejudice and racism practiced by the Philadelphia police. According to the Welcoming Center for new Pennsylvanians, seven percent of Philadelphia’s immigrants come from Africa mainly comprising of Nigerians who form the largest African group in this region. Every now and then, there are cases heard against the Police Department of Philadelphia for ill – treating the Africans.
Scholars suggest that off all prejudice, the most critical is the Attitudinal Prejudice reflected (in this case) in the Philadelphia police also explaining the reasons of brutality that’s practiced on these minority races. W. T. Jones in his work on “Perspectives on ethnicity. New direction for student services”, explains that “attitudinal prejudice refers to a negative attitude toward a person or group based upon a social comparison process in which the individual’s own group is taken as the positive point of reference. ” (Jones, 1972, p. 6). Further, to combat the ‘isms’ requires new value assumptions and new social learning.