Op-Ed by ARJUN AP.
This article will discuss possible causes to why an individual may develop prejudice and ultimately be looked upon as racist.
Every individual comes from a different background and brings with them experiences as well as attitudes and beliefs that distinguish them from every other individual. Unfortunately, differences are not readily accepted in today’s society. This is especially true for those individuals that are living within a culture that is not reflective of their primary ethnic origin.
The primary culture has established a classification system of groups based on one’s cultural background which suggests its dominance over every other culture. Thus, the differences that are presented by every individual are overlooked and assumptions are made about individuals based on ethnicity or race. It was through this emphasis on assumptions more commonly known as stereotypes that racism was thought to originate.
Racism: Is it Generic
How does one become racist? It is important to know that being prejudiced and/or racist are not innate traits. A person is not instinctively racist because of their ethnicity. The onset of racial attitudes and beliefs develop over time through a combination of environmental and social influences.
As early as preschool children are able to recognize differences based on the color of one’s skin. Tolerance of these differences during the school years becomes an important predictor for future acceptance of others whether it is based on gender, race, or low socioeconomic (SES) status.
Influence of Racism in Schools
There are several factors that can contribute to the onset of any form of prejudice or racial attitude. Education plays a large and very important role. It is during the school years when peers contribute to the development of one’s belief systems and attitudes. Especially during the adolescent years, teenagers strive for approval and acceptance amongst their peers. They may even embrace beliefs that do not coincide with their cultural values.
Teachers and administrators too play a key influence. When teachers and administrators display any type of favoritism or bias, the wrong message is conveyed to the student. The quality of education and the values taught in the school setting are absolutely essential to the adolescent’s development.
Influence of Racism in the Home
Another major contributing factor is of course the home. Parental influence has a strong hold over the values and beliefs of a child. When a parent places priority on academic achievement and education in general, it is more likely that the child will eagerly pursue a higher level of education. In addition to a child’s values and beliefs, the behaviors and/or attitudes that the parent models most likely the child will employ in his or her own life. If a parent is highly opposed to a particular race, the child will exhibit the same attitudes and possibly engage in similar behaviors.
Although parents are probably the most important influence there is the assumption that those children living in lower SES conditions are more likely to develop racial attitudes and beliefs. Children of low SES status are perceived as different and therefore embrace their differences and increase their apparent disregard for others who are not like them. This assumption however may be true but not every individual with a low SES status will be racist.
However, it is important to recognize the contributing factors of education and the effects of society that play a vital role in the perspectives of racism. Differences need to be accepted and respected and preconceived notions should never be made about certain individuals. Until every individual is willing to see past the differences in others, we will still face racism in this world.
Wiley Online Library – The Psychology of Social Class
Theatlantic.com – New Evidence That Racism Isn’t ‘Natural’
Washingtonpost.com – Why Are People Still Racist?