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Is it wrong to have prejudices?

Updated on November 24, 2009

Is it wrong to have prejudices?

 The word prejudice literally means to pre-judge someone or something.  It immediately brings people to the conclusion that having prejudices about someone or something is wrong.  Is this right?  Can a person be totally free of prejudices. 

Before you buy a book you often look at its cover and if it looks good or compelling then you buy the book.  You have made a pre-judgement about the book based on what it looks like rather than what is in it.  This is a trivial example, however it shows that we are making assumptions and judgements based usually on past experience without fully understanding or knowing the subject of our judgements.  This seems in many ways to be perfectly sensible.  Basing judgements of things we don't know on our past experience would have aided our survival in the past.  For example, stripy snakes usually mean poisonous therefore avoid them.  Not all stripy snakes are poisonous, however just to be safe, avoid anything that looks suspicious.

Prejudice can be good.  It can help our survival or help us make better judgements.  It is the bad prejudice that gets the most attention.  I might have a bad experience with one person from a different race to my own and due to that bad experience tarnish all people from that race with the same brush.  This then leads on to discrimination - putting prejudice into action.  The KKK are an example of prejudice put into action, so too was the deliberate separating of black and white people in the Southern States of America.  The prejudices that led to such terrible discrimination were themselves founded on twisted facts and ignorance.  Another damaging form of prejudice is pre-judging people with disabilities.  Often disabled people find work opportunities denied them due to their disability.  So many people can be classed as disabled and do not even know they are.  People with dyslexia, spinal conditions, chronic conditions such as Crohn's disease (an auto immune problem that leads to disease in the intestines) are to name a few.  Outwardly these people look 'normal'.  As soon as they tick the disability box on job application forms, it is amazing how many employers suddenly do not want to know. 

Equally sex discrimination has meant people all over the world facing problems.  If a man wants to work in a nursery with preschool aged children, often people will wonder what is wrong with him.  Is he a paedophile is a question many people would ask?  Same question would not be asked about a woman in the same job, yet recently in England a number of women working in nurseries have been found taking part in paedophile activities.  Is the army prejudice against women soldiers right or wrong?  Plato the Greek philosopher would say that people should be matched to their jobs according to their aptitude for that job, not their social backgroung or gender.

Obviously I have only chosen a few examples to discuss this enormous topic, however my point is that although some forms of prejudice are wrong, some are right.  We are all prejudiced.



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