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Prejudice and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, power, social class, and prestige

Created by Brooke Miller.

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Normally when we talk about prejudice and discrimination, we're often talking about it in reference to different racial groups or different ethnic groups. And by racial group, I mean a group that's been set apart because of some kind of physical characteristics that have taken on social significance. And I think that this last part is really key, because as a society, we really do behave as though some physical characteristics have more meaning than other physical characteristics. For example, skin color. We make a lot of judgements about people, and we have a lot of stereotypes based on the color of people's skin. But the same is not true of eye color. And remember that both of these things, both eye color and skin color, are both genetically driven. But we've attached a kind of meaning to skin color that we haven't attached to eye color. When we talk about ethnic groups, we mean groups that are set apart because of national origin or distinctive cultural patterns. So, this would include Puerto Rican, Irish, and Japanese Americans. But this also includes groups like the Jews, who are defined more by cultural traditions and practices than nation of origin. But while prejudice can be based on race and ethnicity, it can also be based on other factors like power, social class, or prestige. By power, we mean economic and political power or even the power to control your own life. Groups with a lot of political power can get their candidates in office. And those candidates can then protect their interests. The same cannot be said of minority groups. These groups don't have as many members as majority groups, and therefore, can't always swing the vote in their favor. At the same time, unfair hiring policies may lead to only low wage jobs being available for minority groups. Laws might also limit where people live or eat or go to school. And all these things can limit the sense of control that people have over their own lives. And that's actually not a very good house. Hold on, I'm gonna take a moment to redraw that. When we talk about social class, there's always one important point to consider, and that's that status is relative. In order for people to be of a higher status, by definition, there need to be people of a lower status beneath them. And this unequal status in society can often set the stage for prejudice. One of the ways that this can happen is that the people on the top are often motivated to try to justify and maintain the differences between themselves and the lower class. And this is related to what psychologists refer to as the Just World Phenomenon, which is an assumption that people make that the world is just, and therefore, people often get what they deserve, which means that good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. So people of a high social class might try to justify their own position in society by saying that people who are poor must be lazy, that if they just worked harder, they might be successful, too. So, it's pretty easy to see how this phenomenon might result not only in prejudice, but also in discrimination. For example, this belief might result in someone voting against welfare programs that might aid the poor. But what about prestige? Well, prestige is often based on occupation. And as it turns out, high prestige jobs, like being a doctor of a lawyer, often go to dominant group members, while lower prestige jobs, like sanitation workers or the service industry, are more likely to go to minority group members.