What is the difference between prejudice and discrimination?


Discrimination

Image by Tobias Higbie via Flickr

Introduction

Well to be honest discrimination is a not very nice attribute of every day life -  ‘The unfair or unequal treatment of individuals or groups’.  And it all boils down to the prejudices we all have, and before you say you don’t have any think carefully about this – you may not realise it but you do, everyone does… Let me share the prejudices I am aware of having myself…

1. Feminists – You may have read some of my other posts which demonstrate this prejudice, I know not all feminists are misandrist bigots but they do a damn good job of making it look that way! I think feminism is harmful, therefore I don’t like feminists

2. Women who get pregnant to trap men/get money out of men, or whatever other excuse they may use to get what they want (a child) without considering the man/father and his wants, needs etc. fair enough more fool the men who sleep with these women without using protection or believing when these women say ‘I’m on the pill, its okay’ but even so, why do women think they can use men in this way? When men treat women with this level of disrespect they often end up getting accused of rape!

3. Women who use children as pawns to manipulate men – often fall into the same category as those above. These women will drain men dry financially and emotionally, toying with them, making them pay for more and more of the child’s up keep even if they only used the man to get the child in the first place (he didn’t have a say then, and continues to not have a say now) but never letting them see their own child except for under ‘her’ terms even if he has never done anything to give good reason for not having access to his child (this rant could go on a while…)

4. Women who have lots of children (often by different fathers) as an excuse not to work/get state benefits, or whatever. Again these women just wind me up, they have no intention of ever supporting their children themselves and expect the father (absent or not) or the state to fund their bingo lifestyles.

So there you have my main prejudices, these are just the ones I am aware of, you don’t always know your own prejudices until a situation arises where you find yourself having such strong opinions against individuals or groups of people. You may notice a pattern to my prejudices – they are all about women, yet I am a woman myself!?

I have demonstrated how we all have prejudices, let me explain how we get these…

Prejudice

Prejudice is not something we are born with it is something we learn. From a young age we are influenced by others, friends, family, the media, teachers, the list goes on.  So our prejudices usually come from other people, but are also influenced by our experiences, supported by stereotypes, lack of positive education about groups/individuals or ignorance about groups/individuals. Prejudice’s reflect our beliefs about others, prejudice is considered to be ‘nearly always harmful’.  Prejudice is having a preconceived opinion, being judgmental, being biased with out knowledge of the facts. So, where does this leave me having admitted to my prejudices, am I uneducated? No; ignorant? No. So, why admit to having prejudices if prejudice is such as bad thing? because I am educated enough to know that my ‘beliefs’ about these groups aren’t based on ignorance, and I am not about to ‘act’ on my beliefs, which would turn my prejudice into discrimination.

Discrimination

Now as I just indicated the differentiation between prejudice and discrimination is ‘action’. We all have prejudices but if you ‘act’ on your prejudices then you are committing discrimination. Discrimination can come in many forms – harassment, exclusion from jobs, goods, services, activities, education, oppression or rejection, anything in which the opportunities of individuals or groups are reduced merely because they are part of ‘that group’. We hear all the time about particular groups that suffer discrimination – women, homosexuals, disabled, ethnic minorities etc. These groups all have large public organisations, famous figure heads and politicians that support their cause, lobby and campaign for their rights. Then there are groups that are growing in popularity and recognition – ageism, absent fathers, mental health service users, these groups are smaller, with less recognisable supporters but still their voice is getting heard more – about time too! And then there are the rest, so many, too many to list, these are people who suffer discrimination, hate crimes etc just as much as the other groups – for example ginger haired people and goths (remember Sophie?) – who stands up for these people, who campaigns against the discrimination they face? Isn’t it about time we recognised that discrimination can happen to anyone and all work together to reduce ALL discrimination rather than singling out some groups as if they have more rights than others? WE ALL HAVE THE SAME RIGHT TO BE FREE OF DISCRIMINATION!

Prejudice

Image by a77eBnY via Flickr

The government has a high proportion of prejudiced elitists, on the one hand they help reduce discrimination by passing laws such as (ACT) then on the other they support and lobby to take away the rights of certain groups of individuals – thus committing discrimination against these groups, but  it’s ‘okay’ because they are the government and they are doing it to protect ‘other’ groups!? Wrong – Protecting one group by discriminating against another isn’t really helpful to anyone!

Ignorance

The real challenge with discrimination is therefore not to stamp it out for specific groups but as a whole, for all groups, unfortunately due to prejudices reinforced by rich, high and powerful influences in society – the media and the government especially. Ignorance as mentioned earlier is another key factor in reinforcing prejudice, another area I admit to having a few issues, but it is due to my upbringing and through self-education I have worked to overcome my ignorance’s (I’m sure there may still be things I am ignorant about, ignorance is another thing you cannot claim to ‘not’ have, because none of us really know every detail about other cultures and beliefs) again I will explain…

When I was growing up it was in a white working class suburb, with high unemployment and poverty rates.  During my primary education there was one black child in my year group, and one Chinese child, we did not have any ‘religious’ education. The local shop was called the ‘Paki’ shop. So, I grew up with ignorance of ethnicity and culture other than my own white poverty lifestyle, I had no idea that calling the local shop the ‘Paki’ shop was wrong, I didn’t even know what it meant until in my teens where I got to mix with a wider group of people in Secondary Education and was ‘educated’ about such things. Still, my contact with the wider world and ‘different’ people was still limited, school ‘religious education’ was minimal and not really representative of the differences in the wider cultures, ethnicity, beliefs etc outside a basic understanding of Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Sikhism – certainly not enough to make a knowledgeable rounded individual.

Some of these understandings required to dispel ignorance can only be learnt by actually mixing with people who have different lives to yourself – something I did not have access to. So as I discovered, and still discover, areas where my knowledge is lacking and I am ignorant I do my best to learn and overcome my ignorance because I don’t want to appear prejudiced or belligerent because I don’t ‘know’ any better. I have no prejudice against people of any religion, gender, ethnicity, race  etc but I do not always know ‘enough’ about them and their beliefs, which makes me sad, but I guess I can’t know EVERYTHING about everyone! Despite this I still do have prejudices – those I opened with, but these are not prejudices I want to dispel, just as I don’t want to overcome a strong dislike for paedophiles, murderers, rapists, terrorists and religious extremists.

Conclusion

So, Discrimination is the unfair or unequal treatment of individuals or groups, because of a ‘difference’.  Discrimination occurs as a result of people acting on their prejudices, which they have developed as a result of the society in which they grew up. Prejudices are reinforced and enhanced by ignorance, society, the media and the government.  Actions to reduce or elimination discrimination are to be favoured and fought for, but not at the expense of one group in favour of another as this then just continues the cycle of discrimination.  As individuals we can educate ourselves to overcome our own ignorance and prejudices rather than believing the stereotyping and negative images that society, the media and the government throw at us daily. Unfortunately, though discrimination is unlikely to ever disappear completely, as soon as we defeat it for one group another slips into their place in this never ending cycle… :(

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12 comments on “What is the difference between prejudice and discrimination?

  1. Interesting post that is thought provoking. Here are some of my thoughts.

    Most (not all) of this reply is straight off the top of my head and therefore open to debate and argument and I am ready to stand corrected. I would love to hear opposing views.

    I remember a man saying to me once. ‘Misogynists are not born, they are made by their experiences with women.’ I think that is also true of misandrists however, it is still a generalisation. Some people hate all women because they want too. Some people hate all men for the same reasons. I think the key is degree. I profoundly dislike SOME women. I also I profoundly dislike SOME men. (I don’t like to use the word hate and when I do I usually mean it as profound dislike rather than actual hate itself). It is hard to hate someone or something. It takes practice and I would rather not try.

    Of course, the question that then arises is, is all prejudice and discrimination wrong? How far do we take this idea and are there boundaries to it? Clearly there are and there must be. Is it wrong to be discriminatory against paedophiles for example? Or psychopaths? Would I be discriminating against both if I refused to allow them to stay in my guest house? If I refused to employ known psychopaths in my retirement home is that prejudice and if so, is it justified? These people are ‘different’ but does that mean discrimination and prejudice against them is wrong? We must be careful about blanket definitions I think.

    Personal views of morality may mean that a person is, “willing to give paedophiles a chance” and let them work in a junior school. Another may be happy to let a psychopath work in a hospital, but that is their dubious personal morality at work. Collective social morality screams NO! Don’t do it!

    The person willing to give the psychopath or paedophile “a chance” may feel like they are doing away with their discrimination and prejudice but at the same time, they are putting others at risk, so should I be discriminatory and prejudiced against them for doing so?

    My point is, that to discriminate is not always a bad thing. Neither is prejudice always wrong. Whether they are right or wrong will depend upon personal and collective morality and the wisdom of the people as a group.

    I think the same can be said of SOME ignorance. (Excluding wilful ignorance such as that of slavers out to make money). Ignorance is another name for innocence. We should remember that. Calling someone a ‘Paki’ is only evil if done with evil intent. Therefore the child who is innocent cannot be culpable and neither can the adult if the intent is not evil. I have a friend and no one can remember or pronounce his name. One night, we were sitting around talking and we decided to call him Fred, because of the name problem. He then said, “Yeah. But then I will be confused with Fred —– Call me Paki Fred.” So there it was and the name stuck. He is a Pakistani and he named himself. He is not in the slightest bit bothered by the nickname because he knows it is not meant in any racist way. However, running for a bus one day, my mate called over his shoulder at our lagging friend, “Come on Paki Fred, hurry up or you will miss it!” He was instantly subjected to an outburst of abuse by people at the bus stop who heard him and thought, wrongly, that he was being a racist. The same thing happened in a pub one evening. Evil, like beauty, can often be in the eye of the beholder.

    That leads me onto Political Correctness. Most people are ignorant of the origins of political correctness. They have no idea where it came from or what its aims are. They vaguely think it was an invention of the left wing for wonderful motives. They are clueless of its sinister political origins and the planned damage it has done to our society. If I go on to talk of that here I shall be here all day and this will become a book. For anyone interested they can watch this film to get a good starting point. I suggest watching it more than once: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8630135369495797236 It is a real eye opener.

    • Great Post, You pose an interesting range of questions the answers to which would be difficult to provide. I must agree with most of the comments you make. I also agree that political correctness is worthy of a whole blog post in its own right. The video is very interesting. Thank you so much for sharing

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  3. I personally align with the “equality for gender” side of feminism, but not with the misandry part of it. But on topic with your post is this… Your not prejudiced as a result of education on your position, it transitions to opinion. Opinions can exhibit very strong assertion like prejudice, but education separates them. Opinions form your subjective reality as a person, your knowledge, your emotional connections, and is part of who you are. Prejudice is assertion without evidence. In reality, misandry is as bad as misogyny (you seem fair on this) thus a philosophy that contributes to misandry is bad, and it demonstrates itself to be harmful if to no one but the misandrist. Opinion can cross the line when you then rule out all other opinions as potentially valid, and resenting those of differing opinion. That is bigotry. What I take from your blog is that you are of the opinion that feminism, and manipulative women who use their sex as a tool to coerce others, to take from the system, and to harm men. It is reasonable to assert why, because such behaviors contribute to misogyny, which in turn translates into discrimination, then into misandry and the cycle starts over. Hatred, abuse of others kindness, discrimination, intentional financial delinquency and deceit are worthy targets of your perceived “prejudice” so I would not define it as prejudice.

    I too hold, both from experience and education certain cruxes as foundational principles that are also the basis of my opinion. Learning about groups, ideologies, concepts, people, even religions, in my experience, never on its own makes them valid or negates the reason why I felt uncomfortable with them to begin with. Some things are determined to be bad even after education, like Fundamentalist Islam, Rapists, Militant Feminism, Fundamentalist Christians and organizations that are stood up to support hatred like Focus on the Family. I have reasonable evidence from my position to assert/make judgement that these things are worthy of my scorn. Prejudice is facilitated by ignorance, which is curable. Bigotry is willfully arrogance and almost always translates into discrimination. Education though is the key to “curing” ignorance and prejudice, and a light that lets us focus on the parts that need to go. Take care. :P

    • Thank you for your contribution, you make some very good points. I agree that there are definitely some things that as you say remain worthy of disdain, no matter how much we learn about them – no amount of education or understanding could ever make these things acceptable to ordinary, decent people :)

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    • Thank you, indeed I choose to try to overcome the ignorance of my upbringing by learning and sharing but it is very true that many chose to accept the ignorance they have learned as fact and are unwilling to develop understanding and acceptance – which is very, very sad :(

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