Discrimination is a sociological term that refers to treatment taken toward or against a person of a certain group that is taken in consideration based on class or category. The United Nations explains: “Discriminatory behaviors take many forms, but they all involve some form of exclusion or rejection.” Discriminatory laws such as redlining have existed in many countries. In some countries, controversial attempts such as racial quotas have been used to redress negative effects of discrimination.
The term prejudice is derived from the Latin term which means a judgment based on previous information or feelings. It is not based on the present experience exclusively. It stands for the unfavorable altitude towards a person or a group. It is an unfounded judgment that is a judgment without adequate basis. It is not factual often based on stereo types. In other words a prejudice is a preconceived belief, opinion or judgment especially toward a group of people characterized by their race, social class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or religion. Also, it means a priori beliefs (without knowledge of the facts) and includes “any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence.” Although positive and negative prejudice both exist, when used negatively, “prejudice” implies fear and antipathy toward such a group.
Forms of discrimination
Racial discrimination differentiates between individuals on the basis of real and perceived racial differences, and has been official government policy in several countries, such as South Africa in the apartheid era, and the USA.
In the United States, racial profiling of minorities by law enforcement officials has been called racial discrimination. As early as 1865, the Civil Rights Act provided a remedy for intentional race discrimination in employment by private employers and state and local public employers. The Civil Rights Act of 1871, applies to public employment or employment involving state action prohibiting deprivation of rights secured by the federal constitution or federal laws through action under color of law. Title VII is the principal federal statute with regard to employment discrimination prohibiting unlawful employment discrimination by public and private employers, labor organizations, training programs and employment agencies based on race or color, religion, gender, and national origin.
Age discrimination is discrimination on the grounds of age. Although theoretically the word can refer to the discrimination against any age group, age discrimination usually comes in one of three forms: discrimination against youth (also called adultism), discrimination against those 40 years old or older, and discrimination against elderly people. In the United States, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employment discrimination nationwide based on age with respect to employees 40 years of age or older.
In many countries, companies more or less openly refuse to hire people above a certain age despite the increasing lifespans and average age of the population. The reasons for this range from vague feelings younger people are more “dynamic” and create a positive image for the company, to more concrete concerns about regulations granting older employees higher salaries or other benefits without these expenses being fully justified by an older employees’ greater experience.
Some people consider that teenagers and youth (around 15–25 years old) are victims of adultism, age discrimination framed as a paternalistic form of protection. In seeking social justice, they feel that it is necessary to remove the use of a false moral agenda in order to achieve agency and empowerment.
This perspective is based on the grounds that youth should be treated more respectfully by adults and not as second-class citizens. Some suggest that social stratification in age groups causes outsiders to incorrectly stereotype and generalize the group, for instance that all adolescents are equally immature, violent or rebellious, listen to rock tunes, and do drugs. Some have organized groups against age discrimination.
Though gender discrimination and sexism refers to beliefs and attitudes in relation to the gender of a person, such beliefs and attitudes are of a social nature and do not, normally, carry any legal consequences. Sex discrimination, on the other hand, may have legal consequences.
Though what constitutes sex discrimination varies between countries, the essence is that it is an adverse action taken by one person against another person that would not have occurred had the person been of another sex. Discrimination of that nature in certain enumerated circumstances is illegal in many countries.
Currently, discrimination based on sex is defined as adverse action against another person, that would not have occurred had the person been of another sex. This is considered a form of prejudice and is illegal in certain enumerated circumstances in most countries.
Sexual discrimination can arise in different contexts. For instance an employee may be discriminated against by being asked discriminatory questions during a job interview, or because an employer did not hire, promote or wrongfully terminated an employee based on his or her gender, or employers pay unequally based on gender.
In an educational setting there could be claims that a student was excluded from an educational institution, program, opportunity, loan, student group, or scholarship due to his or her gender. In the housing setting there could be claims that a person was refused negotiations on seeking a house, contracting/leasing a house or getting a loan based on his or her gender. Another setting where there have been claims of gender discrimination is banking; for example if one is refused credit or is offered unequal loan terms based on one’s gender
Socially, sexual differences have been used to justify different roles for men and women, in some cases giving rise to claims of primary and secondary roles.
People with disabilities face discrimination in all levels of society. The attitude that disabled individuals are inferior to non-disabled individuals is called ableism or disablism. Historically, the disabled have been shunned for their problems. These views are reinforced in modern times in media, books, films, comics, art and language.
Chronic pain is a debilitating condition which is often neglected in modern society. According to the American Chiropractic Association, over 50% of all working US citizens complain of back pain each year. An estimated 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their life. Many times pain can become chronic and debilitating.
Disabled people may also face discrimination by employers. They may find problems with securing employment as their disability can be seen as a risk to the company, and once in employment they may find they are overlooked for promotion opportunities. Similarly, if an employee becomes disabled while employed they may also find themselves being managed out the company by HR departments.
Unsympathetic employers can make life very difficult for such employees and can often make their health problems worse. Disability discrimination laws mean that in theory the employee has a method of redress in such instances.
Almost every person with a syndrome is discriminated against. They may not be able to join organizations, and they may even be neglected by schools and other public utilities.
Forms of prejudice
John Farley put prejudice into three categories:
• Cognitive Prejudice refers to what people believe to be true: for example, in adherence to a particular metaphysical or methodological philosophy at the expense of other philosophies which may offer a more complete theoretical explanation.
• Affective Prejudice refers to what people like and dislike: for example, in attitudes toward members of particular classes such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or creed.
• Conative Prejudice refers to how people are inclined to behave. It is regarded as an attitude because people do not act on their feelings. An example of conative prejudice may be found in expressions of what should be done if the opportunity presents itself.
These three types of prejudice are correlated, but all need not be present in a particular individual. Someone may believe that a particular group possesses low levels of intelligence, but harbour no ill feeling towards that group. A group may be disliked because of intense competition for jobs, but still recognise no differences between groups.
“Discrimination” is a behaviour (an action), with reference to unequal treatment of people because they are members of a particular group. Farley also put discrimination into three categories:
• Personal / Individual Discrimination is directed toward a specific individual and refers to any act that leads to unequal treatment because of the individual’s real or perceived group membership.
• Legal Discrimination refers to “unequal treatment, on the grounds of group membership, that is upheld by law.” Apartheid is an example of legal discrimination, as are also various post-Civil war laws in the southern United States that legally disadvantaged negros with respect to property rights, employment rights and the exercise of constitutional rights.
• Institutional Discrimination refers to unequal treatment that is entrenched in basic social institutions resulting in advantaging one group over another. The Indian caste system and European feudal system are historical examples of institutional discrimination.
NOTE : As with prejudice generally, these three types of discrimination are correlated and may be found to varying degrees in individuals and society at large. Many forms of discrimination based upon prejudice are outwardly acceptable in most societies.
It must be remembered that prejudice and discriminations are formed over a long period of time in the life of an individual as well as in the life of a group. Prejudices are traditional and they are socially transmitted. However most countries have taken great steps to prevent them and make them self more and more to cultivate in this manner.
Great leaders and powerful constitutions help in dealing with such situations in the modern world. Nevertheless its not a one man job nor is it a nations job. It is a job for everybody and only with great strength of unity can over-power this unfortunate element
An introduction to social Psychology – B.Kuppuswamy