Social inequalities are experienced by many people on a daily basis and it does not require experts to see when some members of a community are being oppressed by the majority groups. In fact, social inequalities have become widespread to such levels that it is difficult to turn back or make amends. There are many root causes to social inequalities, but among the three most dominating causes are prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes, which have long-lasting impacts on a given society and the world at large. There are many parts of human nature which connect people together as one international and humane society. The most imperative components that bond us together are the needs for each other, the desire to be close to people that are similar to us, and the competition against those who are different than us or those that we do not know very well. However, these components also hold the power to break apart human bonds and cause oppression.
Prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes fall under the same umbrella of social injustices and continue to be common factors in all societies. It is imperative to distinguish definitions from one another and realize what these terms actually mean before a society or individual can evaluate themselves. Firstly, prejudices are attitudes or opinions, which people have against another group of people or individual, and are as a rule negative. Secondly, discrimination involves behaviors, which are based on those prejudices; in other words, people who want to suppress or act out against another group blinded by their prejudices are taking discriminatory measures. Thirdly, stereotypes are similar to prejudices as they are a group of ideas based on exaggerations, distortions and oversimplifications towards the entire society, race or culture.
Two other sociological terms which can be referred to the same concern are ingroups and outgoups. When referring to an ingroup, sociologists are talking under investigation a group of people or communities in which a person feels welcomed to and an accepted member of. An ingroup often acts as a person’s identity or is at least a major component of it. On the contrary, outgroups are social groups which threaten a person’s identity, values, and goals in life. People tend to compete or oppose these outgroups.
Examples of the above terms are present in every person’s daily life. Personally, when I look back to the largest social setting of most people’s lives, I think of high school as having all of these terms present. In a typical American high school, the student body is divided into many social groups depending on people’s race, talents, likes, dislikes, gender and even similar moral and religious views. Growing up through the high school environment, I discriminated other students from specific cultural backgrounds and was discriminated against in return as well. Also, I noticed that at the young age, especially during the teenage years, youngsters are highly affected and influenced by other people’s opinions, especially those who are in their ingroups, such as friends and family. I noticed that whether others around me were Indians, overweight, underweight, belonged to a certain religion. I had a stereotype about them all, which was the result of my peers’ influences.
Looking back in history, prejudice and stereotypes can be formally recognized when white supremacy was used to discriminate against all other minorities. This prejudice gave white Europeans an excuse to look down upon all other races and thus give birth to the “white man’s burden.” The white race justified prejudices cognitively and emotionally to such extents that practices such as slavery and oppression against other races became widespread and accepted, all resulting from prejudice. By grouping together against other races, white Europeans favored everything valuable to their culture and race and rejected outgroup homogeneity. Their prejudice was driven not only because of the competition for resources, but to gain most of the best resources, which inevitably resulted in the social inequalities that we still see today. I believe that because of the large scale brainwashing and unjust practices becoming a part of the white moral code, prejudice is the most significant problem in the global community today.
As for stereotypes, ingroups and outgroups mostly affect and promote these biases because what a person believes about the external world and about other races is primarily taught in one’s ingroup. Ultimately, we are taught to have stereotypes against anyone who falls in outgroups. A healthy strategy to help end prejudice is to mingle with outgroups and not restrict oneself to ingroups for the duration of one’s life. This mingling or integration is essential to avoid facing consequences of stereotypes and discrimination, which include hatred, violent crimes, and eventually believing that another race is morally and physically inferior, as it was done in the past. This type of behavior does not only hurt the victims of prejudice but also the perpetrators as they are unable to move beyond their blinded prejudice and gain benefit by learning new things and interacting with people different than themselves. Eventually, such behavior creates barriers and separates people from becoming an international race based on humanity.
All in all, prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes are breaking our society slowly but surely, and indeed we continue to inadvertently create self-fulfilling prophecies in our society and unknowingly engage in prejudice and discriminatory practices by simply following the past traditions and not having the courage or knowledge to end them. Prejudice and discrimination do not have to be on government levels against other nations and cultures; in fact, it starts from one’s home just like all other education about life. Our parents, siblings, cultural background, which make up ingroups, shape our foundations for the rest of our lives, and in order to get away from the negative aspects, we must first recognize these foundations to be faulty and then rip away from for the sake of the larger human community. Many families, nations, civilizations keep repeating the cycle of prejudice by passing the discrimination and stereotypes through generations, which slowly poison the future. However, we need to realize that every consecutive generation has more resources and more exposure to the world around them than the ones before, and should, therefore, make the effort to use these resources to educate them and bond with other races, ultimately putting a stop to prejudice.