Prejudice is an idea or opinion that disregards basic facts. It's akin to ignorance, or a lack of knowledge, experience or education. It's something that should not be tolerated, as we all strive for betterment and higher learning.
The major problem with prejudice is that it often ends in discrimination, or biased treatment based on someone's race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or other characteristics.
In essence, prejudice is a feeling. And the act of discrimination is the pitiful end result. To make sure we remain in a free society that nurture's everyone's well-being, let's examine various examples of prejudice so we know how and when to steer clear.
Prejudice is a detriment that shifts over time. Usually, prejudices are removed when someone becomes less ignorant or more informed. Of course, that's not always the case, as sheer hatred tends to abound, but the shape of prejudice has morphed over time. Here are some examples.
It is believed that Adolf Hitler came into contact with antisemitic ideas at an early age, which fueled his prejudice against Jewish people. During his rise to power, he became obsessed with the idea of ethnic purity in Germany. Hitler's position allowed him to spread and act on his prejudices against "inferior peoples," leading to the death of millions in the Holocaust.
In Afghanistan, the prejudiced interpretation of Islamic law when the Taliban was in government, meant women were unable to learn or work, or even be seen unveiled by men outside their family. Who can claim to understand the mindset of extremists, but the Taliban considered an educated female to be "more threatening than armies equipped with all-seeing drones."
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, any person of Japanese descent living in America was considered suspect. As prejudices against them grew, simply because they had a genetic link to an enemy country, President Roosevelt had them rounded up and held in internment camps.
In the Mad Men era, only men were seen fit for executive-level jobs, while women were mainly receptionists and secretaries. This was based on the prejudiced belief that women were better suited to life on the homefront as housewives but, if they must work, surely they weren't as competent and business-oriented as their male co-workers.
Bullying is often caused by a prejudice against people who are different. For example, the "cool kids" are wearing a certain brand of clothing, so they pick on the one kid who's wearing a dress she and her mom made? Just because she's different doesn't mean she should have a target on her back. Of course, there are tons of psychological reasons why kids are misguided enough to bully, but it has its place in prejudice.
Some parents will not approve of their children marrying anyone of a different race or religion. Typically, these parents believe their ethnic or cultural background is superior to others, highlighting their ethnocentricity. Or, they want to preserve the purity of their bloodline without any other nationalities mixed in. This stems from a certain level of xenophobia, or an irrational fear that someone different or foreign is inferior or bad.
There's only one time when prejudice is beneficial. When you're trying to create conflict in a plot. Otherwise, it has no place in modern society. Alas, a good dose of prejudice creates tension between characters.
You have the bigoted character on the one hand. And, you have the oppressed character on the other (who's going to rise above the challenge). It creates a certain amount of tension or conflict which, in the end, leads to resolution.
Let's explore some famous examples of prejudice in our favorite movies and books.
In the movie Crash, Jean doesn't want her husband to hire a certain person because of the way he dresses. She assumes he is violent or uses drugs, but he actually turns out to be respectable.
Disney's Zootopia takes on prejudice in two forms, possibly three. The main character, Judy Hopps, is a tiny, female bunny who didn't grow up in the big city. As such, when she joins a police force dominated by large, powerful male characters (of varying animal species) who are "street smart," no one thinks she's good for anything other than a lowly position as a meter maid. Boy, does she prove them wrong, as she is neither large nor male.
In the movie, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a black doctor engaged to a white woman meets her parents, and although the parents consider themselves to be liberal, they have a hard time approving this union. What makes this movie particularly poignant is that it was released a mere six months after the ban on interracial marriage was lifted in America. Can you believe interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states until 1967?
In the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, there are social class prejudices. The main example is Darcy, who didn't consider Elizabeth as a suitable wife because of her lower social status. Jane Austen wrote the first draft of Pride and Prejudice in 1793. During this time, a man who was well-educated and grew up immersed in refineries would never consider marrying a woman who grew up in a lower-income household. He'd consider her unworthy and even unable to function in his high society hemisphere.
In Nora Roberts' Guardians Trilogy, Annika Waters is a congenial mermaid simply overflowing with joy. She joins a clan of five other men and women who must defeat a dark goddess and her minions. One of the men is a seasoned warrior; the immortal Doyle McCleary is over three hundred years old. He's lived through an endless array of battles and skirmishes. As such, he thinks a pretty, bubbly mermaid has no place in battle. Turns out, Annika has moves akin to Black Widow and can kick Doyle's butt six ways to Sunday.
In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Tom Robinson becomes a scapegoat for a crime he didn't commit simply because he's African American. He lived in a fictional town in Alabama in 1933, when racism was rampant and lynching still occurred with regularity. Since Tom was black, the whole community assumed he possessed a greater propensity for crime. Luckily, Atticus Finch decides to defend him in an attempt to prove his innocence and overall good nature.
As you can see, a healthy dose of prejudice can thicken a plot. Take the Annika Waters and Doyle McCleary example. In one scene, Doyle shifts his eyes to look at Annika doubtfully, only to have her launch into a handspring and spring across, landing her heel an inch or so away from his face.
Turns out, she can fight and Doyle's prejudice which arose from her sunny disposition was quickly dispelled. For future conflict in any of your fictional tales, be sure to check out stereotype examples as well as further examples of bias.