What is the psychology behind racism & prejudice? What is it that can cause such hateful feelings towards a person or group? Let me explain in lay mans terms. I’m only explaining the racism again MINORITIES here.
Humans are governed by groups. Groups control almost everything we do & though we like to think we are individual & we are alright by ourselves, we have all been influenced by a group at one point. There are too many people in the world for us to form an opinion on all of them individually, we form stereotypes of certain groups. Stereotypes & prejudice are not to be confused as being the same, though they are similar. Stereotypes aren’t always negative & usually hold a kernel of truth as they are based to some extent on observations. But let me not get side-tracked. The problem with racism is that, though it can go both ways, it seems to affect black people and other ethnic minorities more because of the simple fact that they are just that. A minority. Based on the psychology – as humans, we want to know how to act around certain people etc. The process of grouping and stereotyping I mentioned before is made a lot simpler here because if a group is small already, i.e., a minority, rather than splitting them into smaller groups and sub-categories, they are all looked at the same way.
Another reason is the concept of the “in-group vs. the out-group”. Like I said before, humans are to some extent governed by groups. When we find a group we identify with, we feel loyal to them & this is known as our in-group. Anything outside that; rather than being split into different groups, i.e., “we’re against this, that & the other group”, all other groups are clumped into one massive group, the out-group. To you & your group, the police is just as bad as that group of bullies at school or whatever. Anything done to the in-group is usually over-exaggerated and made a big deal out of.
We can’t expect racism to just end. We haven’t had enough time to get to that stage, however, it’s not getting any better either. A survey done in Britain in 2003 showed that 31% of people openly admitted to being racially prejudiced. The number seems low, however, this is the same as it was in 1987.
The main problem, in my opinion, is a lack of understanding. When I moved to where I am currently living – I noticed the lack of ethnic minorities & although Britain is becoming a very multicultural place, some places have not been exposed enough. From the perspective of a white person, they may not understand what it feels like to be discriminated against because of something that is out of their control, i.e., skin colour. That is not to say that only ethnic minorities get discriminated against, fat people may get bullied, difficulty finding clothes etc. However they can change things about themselves. You can’t do anything about the colour of your skin or your heritage.
Now, before you continue reading, I encourage you to watch this social experiment. There are 3 parts to it, here is the first, the rest you’ll find in related videos. “How Racist Are You?” | part 1 | Jane Elliott’s Brown Eye-Blue Eye Experiment
Hopefully the video showed you the issues.
the black cycle
so what is the black cycle? There are certain negative stereotypes associated with being black. To name a few these include, violence, ignorance, stupid & loud. These stereotypes are instilled from a young age via the media & maybe prejudices from parents, other children at school etc.
Let me give you a scenario. The stereotype here is that black people are violent, confrontational and argumentative. Let’s say someone passes a black person in the street, its 2 in the afternoon & as they walk past, they hold onto their bag tighter. The black person may notice & get angry at this form of discrimination – they may confront them & start arguing. Things may escalate & police may get involved. The whole situation could have been avoided. The black person didn’t have to make such a scene, but then, the person shouldn’t have reacted in such a way. They have no reason to be afraid. Now arising from this situation, the black person may have gotten arrested, and all the stereotypes are reinforced in the eyes of any speculators.
A common problem these days is employment. Ethnic minorities are very under-represented in employment. However, it most cases, most people do want to work, jobs are just hard to come by. There is more pressure on a minority group as their family may not be as wealthy as others. Some people do not NEED a job as badly as others. If employers are prejudiced about hiring black people & they don’t give them opportunities, this may lead to other behaviours. A mother may need to support her family, however cannot get any work, so may turn to easier ways out. Fraudulent and other criminal activities. Young people may turn to selling drugs. In turn, the stereotype is fed. Arising from the criminal activities, they may get arrested & now they have a criminal record, it’s even harder for them to get a job & the cycle continues.
This is where lack of understanding comes in again. It’s easy to say, “oh, just get a job, the rest of us have to do it”, but it’s not as easy as that. Let me give you a personal example. A friend of mine has been looking for work for over 6 months. She has been vigilant in her job hunting and although she can find vacancies, she never gets call backs or interviews. She even came to the area before moving here to hand out CVs. She’s black by the way. 2-3 weeks ago, one of her friends started looking for work. He’s white. In his 2 weeks of job hunting, he got an interview. Similarly, another of her friends, also white, has received 4/5 job offers in the last 6 months, 2 of which she didn’t call back after she had completed trial runs. You can’t say that is pure chance.
My friend has no current source of income, not even her family. While others are complaining that they don’t have money to buy alcohol or to go out partying until their parents give them money the following week, others don’t have ANYTHING coming from their parents & hardly have money to have a well-balanced diet.
Some people don’t even want to work, they just want the money for leisurely activities, while others, such as me & my friend actually want to work.
No-one can tell me that racism isn’t a problem. & this whole idea of playing the system is bullsh*t as well.
Anytime I have talked to someone of the older generation about it, they say, “that’s the way life is, you just have to play the game”.. It seems that only a certain type of black person is acceptable. Well-spoken, well-dressed etc. Why should they have to conform to such customs? If a white man was a “skinhead”, these are just a “small proportion” of white people, but when a black person does something wrong, their behaviour is seen as a reflection of the whole race.
This post has gotten way too long & I’ve barely skimmed the surface, but I strongly encourage you to watch the video I linked above.