Friday, May 18, 2012

Prejudice - how to recognize it.

One of the problems we have with prejudice is a total failure to realize that you are prejudiced.  It requires a huge amount of self-awareness to realize you are prejudice or a constant social pressure.  Neither require or force you to change your actions.

Part of the issue is that hating some group, or feeling superior to them does not make you prejudiced.  

  • Someone that hates Nazis is not prejudiced, someone that hates Germans because at one point they were ruled by Nazis is prejudiced.
  • Someone that hates Al-qaeda is not prejudiced, someone that hates Muslims is prejudiced.
  • Someone that hates George Lucas is not prejudiced, someone that hates Methodists is prejudiced.
  • Someone that hates the CIA is not prejudiced, someone that hates Americans is prejudiced.
  • Claiming any team is superior to the Baltimore Orioles (14 consecutive losing seasons, as of 2011) is just reasonable.  But claiming your race/country/religion is prejudiced.

The concept of prejudice is simple - it means to pre-judge someone before you know them.  If you hate a group or feel superior to them because of actions they admit they have done (or in the case of the Orioles, failed to do), that isn't prejudiced.  But if you judge people not on what they admit doing, but on what some people that YOU think are identical/nearly identical have done, then it is.    You are pre-judging a large group based on a small group.  Here are some warning signs about prejudice.  They are things people do to convince themselves it is OK to hate a specific group.

  1. Confuse a large neutral group with a small bad group.  I.E: "I know about some (large category = Hispanic/Italians/black/German/Methodist/Muslims/Mormons/Americans) that are part of  (small category = gang/mafia/propaganda organization/political party/terrorist organization/black-ops law breaking spy group).  So all 'large group" are are incredibly evil - they do crimes and have specific plans to create more crimes.
  2. Claim a small leadership group has a secret agenda that most are not aware of - even though the no one admits to being part of that leadership group or admits those plans.  In particular, there is no such thing as a 'well known secret'.  If it's well known, it's not a secret.
  3. Ignore members of other large groups that also join the small evil group (or similar group).  That is thinking that there are no white gangs, no jewish mafia, no christian terrorists, etc.
  4. Claim that there is some kind of inherent link in the culture/genes that explains this - despite no real  evidence supporting their position.   (It's genetic, they are raised to hate, their religion encourages a master/slave relationship.)  If the link is not so clear to your opponents, then it isn't strong enough to be effective.
  5. Demand that because of the evil that some do, all of the larger group must suffer stricter control (i.e. discrimination) even if by some small chance a few of them don't belong to the small evil group.  Ignore statistics that prove this is no better than doing it to another, favored group.  Racial Profiling is the major example.  
  6. Claim a general, non-specific superiority, as opposed to a specific one.  I fully admit that there are people  smarter, faster, nicer, more dextrous, stronger, prettier, sexier than me but that does not make them BETTER than me.  There is no way to say that one race is generically better than any other.   Note this is mostly used as an excuse to not let the other group prove they are just as good (Boys are better than girls, so we won't let the girls play on our team!  na na na).
These are the hallmarks of prejudice if you do these things, you are prejudiced.  No matter what.  If you don't, chances are you are not prejudiced.

These ideas are the heart of prejudiced - and ALWAYS wrong.   The quite truth is that the larger the group, the more variety within it.  It is easy to enforce uniformity in a small group, much harder to do so on a larger group.  Time makes this far harder - large groups drift and schism.   If the large group were as bad as the small group, they would not lie about their goals, they would publicize them.   Groups grow by convincing other people they are right, not by hiding their intentions.   It's why Christians and Muslims outnumber Jews (Jews don't recruit, while Christians and Muslims do.)  Secret agendas don't work - you need to publicize the core of your beliefs - if not your 'solutions'. 

Always clean up your own backyard before you talk about the opponent.  When the police break this rule, it is called "selective enforcement" and negates the arrests (If I can prove that the police are ignoring all the black men doing exactly what I did, then I can get a judge to dismiss the charges against me.).   The inherent link think is required for internal constituency.  You need to explain why all of 'them' are bad.   The thing is this doesn't work - groups/genes that are that bad die out.  They don't get passed on - whether they are genes or social habits.  As for the racial profiling - everyone is for it until they find out they are the one's being discriminated against.   Finally, there is no such thing as a general superiority.  Certain things are neither good nor bad - water for example can kill in too much quantities, but is essential to life.    People are one of them.   You may be a better liar than I am - but that means I am more honest than you.  If I am more law abiding, then you are a better criminal.  No such thing as a superior person.

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