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Exploring the Roots of Racial Prejudice and Strategies for Change

Dec 14, 2022 | 0 comments

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Dec 14, 2022 | Essays | 0 comments

Racial prejudice is one of the pervasive problems to the societies worldwide (Pascoe, 1985). In the contemporary society, racial prejudice manifests indirectly, directly, subtle and blatantly (Allport, 1954). According to Oskamp (2000), additional racial prejudice forms were stimulated by attacks to United States by terrorists in 2001 September eleventh. Many studies conducted shows that anti-Islam discrimination and prejudice increased since that incidence. This article will discuss why it is very easy to develop and retain racial prejudices and ways in which it can be broken.

According to Allport (1954), definition of prejudice is a negative bias directed to a particular group of people. On the hand, racism is has a foundation on beliefs and shown in behaviors that believes race to be a biological entity and claims other racial groups apart from their own are psychologically, intellectually and physically inferior (Allport, 1954). Pascoe (1985) describes racism that it results from race prejudice transformation and ethnocentrism through power exercise against another racial group regarded as inferior by institutions and individuals with unintentional and intentional support of the whole culture. Therefore, the racism core includes prejudiced mentality of superiority in a in group with a power exercise to subjugate a group considered out. Therefore, as prejudice is attitudinal in nature mainly, racism extends the attitude into a discriminating behavior against another group.

Many theorists have tended to explain why racial prejudice is easy to develop. Some claim that racial prejudice is one of the by-products of evolution for adaptive strategies for survival that make humans beings to distinguish between a foe and a friend (Oskamp, 2000). Furthermore, the process of natural selection programmed the human brain to depend on physical markers in assessment of a potential threat among competing different racial groupings.

This perspective is echoed in prehistoric societies where interpersonal interactions among different tribes were noted to be dangerous in transmission of deadly diseases (Allport, 1954). Adaptive reactions to these threats were to attribute a potential threat to people of an out group who were identified by different physical features. From this perspective, racism and prejudice can be and has been embedded in the cultural, biological and social collective human consciousness.

Pascoe (1985) points out that many scholars have conceptualized the psychodynamic of psychological processes thought to explain racial prejudice development and maintenance among the whites. The conceptual perspective views racial prejudice as an unconscious ego mechanism for defense designed for reduction of anxiety among most experience of white people due to conflicted super ego and id based racial feelings and thoughts (Oskamp, 2000).

There are different sources of racial prejudice; key among them are various forms of fear. The expectation that another person will do harm , perception that the other’s difference in viewing the world will create to one’s own challenges, presumption that by interacting it will lead to rejection, embarrassment or ridicule and the fear generation of negative consequences due to negative stereotypes.

According to Allport (1954), the theoretical support that suggests forcing of people to change their behaviors will results to a long term in change of attitude relates to the theory of cognitive dissonance that stipulates that people cannot think in a particular way and contrarily behave in a manner without interfering with the belief structure. Therefore, according to Pascoe (1985), two strategies can work to this problem:

First, attention should be paid to the normative exertion to change behavior as contrary to legal pressure. Second, steps to be taken to make sure that the moral pressure conveyor is someone respected, similar to the target. Oskamp (2000) adds that strategies that try to change the prejudiced people’s internal motivation can also be effective. This can be approached in two different ways: empathy development for the target group and inciting people to confront these discrepancies in their beliefs and attitudes towards particular groups of people

Allport (1954) further suggests that racial prejudice reduction should be done on the children because prejudices tend to develop and harden during childhood. Therefore, finding ways of reducing prejudice in children will create a long term solution to the whole society. Moreover, Pascoe (1985) adds that reducing racial discrimination and prejudice can occur successfully when minority and majority of people have positive experiences, interact, create personal relationships, develop commitments for racial prejudice reduction and engage in truthful and open discussions with one another. Therefore for this to occur, people of diverse races must be in contact with one another both intensively and extensively.


Pascoe, E. (1985). Racial prejudice. New York: F. Watts.

Oskamp, S. (2000). Reducing prejudice and discrimination. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

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