Entry by Lauren Nader
Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘prejudice’ as ‘an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially when formed without enough thought or knowledge’ (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.). Sometimes prejudice is viewed as a synonym of prejudge, as being prejudiced often means judging someone before knowing the truth.
The reason why people do this is often because they seek to acquire ‘a general overview of the world’ and to achieve this, the ‘subconscious mind makes a snap judgement’ in order to place individuals into categories for example, based on race, gender and religion (CGTN Europe, 2020). Because of this, individuals have allowed their subconscious biases to overrule their mindset. They have decided to stereotype people based on pre-existing knowledge whether this be their own lived experiences with people who share common similarities or based on what they have heard from others (learnt experiences).
In Verna Myer’s TED Talk titled ‘How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly towards them’, she describes an incident in which herself and her Korean female friend were walking and looking for someone to ask for directions as they were lost, and the first person they saw was a black man (Myers, 2016). Verna describes how her and her friend’s reactions to this individual were very different. When Verna saw a positive to this as she found someone who she believed she could trust to guide them, her friend’s reaction was to run the other way. Her friend’s occupation was a diversity officer, and she told Myers that she could not believe that this was her reaction. She felt guilty because her unconscious bias towards black men had been made apparent to her without prior awareness of this. As readers, what we can learn from this is that we should be more attentive towards the possibility of any lurking unconscious biases and do the work in order to prevent these in the future.
Baratunde Thurston’s TED Talk titled ‘How to Deconstruct Racism One Headline at a Time’, describes a concept in which the roles are reversed in the sense of a white person being portrayed as immoral and inferior as the black person as moral and superior (Thurston, 2019). This allows the audience to imagine a world in which the rules worked in a way as such – a world which favoured black people. How would this make you feel? Could you accept this change? It would be one method that would undoubtedly highlight the unfairness that black people face. The prejudices that exist as part of systematic racism would be physically experienced by those of the opposite skin tone. As a result, white people, who may have been racist and ignorant in the past, would acknowledge how others feel because of their actions and opinions. Prejudice comments and practices exist when people judge others without really knowing them. This arguably occurs in which the person judging is in a position of superiority i.e. a white man judges a black man because he feels confident that most people will believe him. Things will work out in his favour because of his whiteness, also known as white privilege.
In terms of exploring the etymology of ‘prejudice’, it is said that it is derived directly from the Medieval Latin word ‘prejudicium’, meaning ‘injustice’ as well as the Latin word ‘praeiudicium’ meaning ‘poor judgement’ (Online Etymology Dictionary, n.d.). Essentially, ‘prae’ meaning ‘before’ and ‘iudicium’ meaning ‘judgement’, and thus forming a word that describes the notion of judging before knowing (Online Etymology Dictionary, n.d.). When studying this word, it is important to question why the act of prejudice exists in the first place? Who has the power to prejudge and why are they allowed to do this without any repercussions? It is often argued that those who are uneducated on a certain topic or group are often the people who are quick to misjudge. It is important to acknowledge that ‘prejudice is based on ignorance’ and ‘the solution is education, but many people choose to remain ignorant, as their prejudices can often make them feel superior’ (BBC Bitesize, n.d.). There is a key difference between those who lack knowledge yet are prepared to educate themselves and those who simply opt for the route of continuing to judge without being properly informed. For instance, figures show that there was an 80 percent increase in racist and xenophobic violence and discrimination linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, due to its origins in China (ITV News, 2021).
Furthermore, we can also reflect on prejudice towards religion. Historically, Christianity (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) was the dominant religion that reigned the West thus individuals began to classify religions based on geographical locations: ‘if a Christian secular is what reigns in the West, a Hindu secular is clearly dominant in India’ (Pandey, 2013, p5). This eventually led to prejudice towards other religions often followed by minority populations, which continues to pervade society today.
Prejudice in relation to pedagogy and higher education within the UK
It is important to understand how prejudice manifests in the university. A recent example of this is the incident where 19-year-old first-year student, Zac Adan was falsely accused of “looking like a drug dealer” by University of Manchester security officers, who held him up against a wall and demanded to see his identification in November (The Tab, 2021). This example shows how racial stereotypes continue to influence the behaviour of campus security and academic staff towards young black youth. While violence towards this demographic persists in many other institutions, in particular the police, universities are also responsible for sustaining this form of prejudice on a systemic level. Experiencing racial prejudice on campus can have effects on students in terms of their performance, success and retention. A study by the University Partnerships Programme Foundation (UPP) and the Social Market Foundation (SMF), found that 10.3% of black students quit university early in England, compared with 6.9% for the student population as a whole. Some of the causes were: racism on campus and accommodation, a lack of a sense of belonging, financial constraints and a lack of accessible mental health and wellbeing services (2017:16). Overall, the research emphasises that many British HEI’s fail to respond to ‘the complexity of issues related to ethnicity, which are ‘structural, organisational, attitudinal, cultural and financial’ (ibid.).
BBC Bitesize (n.d.). What types of prejudice are there? – Prejudice and discrimination – GCSE Religious Studies Revision. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z3vrq6f/revision/
Cambridge Dictionary (2019). PREJUDICE | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Cambridge.org. Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/prejudice
CGTN Europe (2020). What is prejudice? [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1j4kfe1hcKM
ITV News (2021). Hate crimes against east and south east Asians in London rose 80% during Covid. [online] Available at: https://www.itv.com/news/london/2021-10-07/hate-crimes-against-east-and-south-east-asians-in-london-rose-80-during-covid
The Tab. (2021). Manchester student Zac Adan speaks out about being ‘racially profiled’ by uni security. The Manchester Tab, April 28. Available at: https://thetab.com/uk/manchester/2021/04/28/manchester-student-zac-adan-speaks-out-about-being-racially-profiled-by-uni-security-51417
Myers, V. (2014). How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/verna_myers_how_to_overcome_our_biases_walk_boldly_toward_them?language=en
Online Etymology Dictionary (n.d.). prejudice | Etymology, origin and meaning of prejudice by etymonline. [online] Available at: https://www.etymonline.com/word/prejudice#:~:text=prejudice%20(n.)&text=and%20directly%20from%20Medieval%20Latin
Pandey, G. (2013). A history of prejudice: race, caste, and difference in India and the United States. New York, Ny Etc.: Cambridge University Press, 5.
Thurston, B. (2019). How to deconstruct racism, one headline at a time. [online] www.ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/baratunde_thurston_how_to_deconstruct_racism_one_headline_at_a_time?language=en
Bethlehem, D.W. (2017). Social Psychology Of Prejudice. S.L.: Psychology Press (a journal that teaches the reader about psychology and science in terms of the feelings of those who prejudices are directed towards – note that only a preview is available for free)
Linehan, T. (2012). Comparing Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Asylophobia: The British Case. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 12(2), pp.366–386 (a journal that compares religious prejudices)
YouTube (2021). How to reduce bias in your workplace | The Way We Work, a TED series. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEP7_BeXH64 (a TED series video that provides tips on how to reduce biases within working environments)
YouTube (2017). Don’t Put People in Boxes. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRwt25M5nGw (a video by NewHope Church that shows the importance of not stereotypically classifying individuals)
Questions to ask
- Do you believe that you hold any unconscious biases towards others? If so, how could you combat them?
- What work can be performed in order to prevent prejudiced behaviour from continuing?
- Have you ever been a victim of prejudices? If yes, how did this make you feel? Were you comforted by allies?
- Why do you believe that prejudices exist today?
- What does a world without prejudices look like to you?