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What is the Difference Between Prejudice and Racism?
I was recently participating in a forum on political issues and made a statement where I said everybody is a racist at one time or another, they are just afraid to admit it. Then I went on to give examples of what I meant. I said, have you ever been in an express checkout line and a person of another race is checking out with more than 15 items? If you get upset, then you are a racist. Or have you ever been cut off while you were driving and found out that the person is of another race and you get upset, then you are racist.
Was I Wrong?
Then I started receiving replies where people were appalled that I could feel this way and be so casual about it. So I thought there must be something wrong with my thinking. That's when I looked up the definition of prejudice and racism. Boy was I wrong. All of these years I had been using those words in the wrong context. I even called my wife a racist because of some of the situations she had been in. I had no idea I was wrong. After learning what the correct definitions were, I apologized to the members of the forum...and eventually to my wife!
My Air Force Years
When I was in the Air Force from 1956 to 1960, I spent 24 months in the deep south in Biloxi Mississippi and Valdosta Georgia. The term I heard there was prejudice, not racist. See I thought prejudice was much worse than racist. While I was there I learned by observation that a person is not born prejudice but must be taught to be prejudice. However after reading the definition of both terms, I realized it is just the opposite. A person can be prejudice, but that does not necessarily mean they are racist. A person can be prejudice to their favorite football team over another team. But a racist feels superior to another race which is much more dangerous. However, extreme prejudice to another race can lead to racism.
The Race Card
In many of the forums, I have noticed when people are referring to President Obama, they say they like him as a person, but they don't like his policies. I would reply with that's just code for you don't want a black man in the White House. Then they would say," now you have pulled the race card on me." Is that really racism or prejudice? Here the definitions of each of them.
Definition of Prejudice
- Injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one's rights; especially : detriment to one's legal rights or claims
- Preconceived judgment or opinion
- An adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
- An instance of such judgment or opinion
- An irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics
Definition of Racism
- A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race; a racial prejudice or discrimination
Examples of RACISM
- The racism that was the basis of apartheid
- Hitler's declaration of his belief in a “master race” was an indication of the inherent racism of the Nazi movement
Prejudice or Racist?
You will notice that prejudice is a relative term. In its simplest form it is just an opinion. In its most extreme form, it can lead to racism.
Racism on the other hand is not a relative term. it is an absolute term. A racists is one who believes that one race is superior over another race. Hitler was a racists because he believed in a master race. This gave him the justification for the Holocaust.
So this raises questions. When someone says that you pulled the race card on them, are they implying that you are calling them a racist; or do they see themselves as racist; or do they really mean you pulled the prejudice card on them? Is it possible that they are also using racism in the wrong context?
Stick and Stones
When I was growing up, there was a saying that goes: "Stick and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." But emotive words do hurt people and anger them if they are not used in the correct context.
There was another saying that followed the first one that says: "I'm rubber your glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you." I have seen so many times that words like: communist, socialist, fascist, Marxist, and tyranny are not used in the proper context and angers those that it is used against who know better. It seems to me, that most people who use those terms, don't realize they could have learned it from others and has become their opinion. Therefore, by definition, they have become prejudice.
Civil Unrest in the World.
Here is an answer that I gave to a hub question on Civil Unrest in the World that I thought would be relative to this article.
I believe what creates civil unrest in the world is our differences. if an alien from another planet were to study the human race, they would see it as one race, the human race, with difference in skin coloring, features and body size. If they were to study our minds, they would find that there were many values and beliefs that were very closely related with not that many differences, but many different languages.
I grew up during World War II, when there was a direct threat against our existence. It was amazing how people banned together, set aside their differences to become patriotic and to fight off the threat. But even at that, there was still prejudice and racism. Perhaps if there was a threat against human kind, we would all come together, set aside our difference and work together as one race. We would be so preoccupied with trying to save our selves that it would eliminate civil unrest...nah, it ain't going to happen. I gave it my best shot.