Prejudice is an opinion or conception (positive or negative) about groups of people formed beforehand without sufficient factual ground. An action based on prejudice is called discrimination. A person with prejudice towards a certain group tends to treat everyone from that group the same way, regardless of their personal qualities. Prejudice and discrimination threaten social well being and, therefore, must be prevented in British society. There are different types of prejudices depending on the groups that are misjudged.
Racism is a preconceived opinion about minority ethnic groups as inferior. Societies often become racist because of rising immigration and related problems. Racism can lead to violent acts against ethnic minorities. If tolerated by the state, racism can lead to ethnic cleansing, such as the one in Kosovo. The National Assembly against Racism fights racial prejudice in British society through different awareness campaigns. In particular, the Assembly is known for defending multiculturalism and curbing institutional racism. Other areas of its work are Islamophobia and rights of migrants and asylum seekers.
Sexism is a negative preconception of a person based on gender. In traditional societies, women are often considered inferior and not capable of handling important tasks. Women in some Eastern cultures still today are barred from getting education and developing their talents. In Britain, sexism is more often directed against men. This can be explained by the higher visibility of males. Male asylum seekers, young male black people and gay men are considered to be a greater threat than females of comparable status.
Homophobia is preconceived negative opinion about homosexuals. In Britain, homosexuals are conditionally accepted, as long as they do not express themselves in public spaces. Heterosexual men tend to fear openly gay men; straight women are more neutral towards lesbians. Gay men are often feared as potential pedophiles; lesbian women’s influence on children is not considered dangerous.
Ableism is misjudged opinion about people with disabilities. People in Britain do not talk openly about their prejudices towards disabled people. However, many say they feel uncomfortable in their presence as do not know what to speak or do. Everyone seemingly recognises the need for adjusting urban infrastructure to accommodate special needs of disabled people, however, opinion polls reveal people’s discontent with personal inconvenience caused by those adjustments.
Ageism is a preconceived opinion about people based on their age. Although mostly ageism refers to discrimination of elderly people, it also includes younger people whose interests are compromised because of age. In Britain, people tend to underestimate elderly people’s abilities and don’t feel comfortable with them holding responsible positions.
- John Colet School: Prejudice and discrimination
- National Assembly against Racism: Latest news: General campaigns
- National Institute of Economic and Social Research: Caste discrimination and harassment in Great Britain; Hilary Metcalf, Heather Rolfe; 2010
- Stonewall: Understanding prejudice: Attitudes towards minorities; Gill Valentine, Ian McDonald; 2004