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Article sourced from PsychSpace.com



The Nature of Prejudice
Featuring Material from:
Allport, Gordon W. The Nature of Prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979

Man is not born prejudiced; rather, prejudice is learned. By its very nature, prejudice denies individual human dignity and breaks the fundamental unity among people. Gordon W. Allport defines prejudice as a hostile attitude or feeling toward a person solely because he or she belongs to a group to which one has assigned objectionable qualities. Allport stresses that this hostile attitude is not merely a hasty prejudgment before one knows the facts. It is a judgment that resists facts and ignores truth and honesty. Thus, prejudice blinds one to the facts and creates a kind of poison in a relationship. Although prejudice in daily life is ordinarily a matter of dealing with individual people, it also entails unwarranted ideas concerning a group as a whole. Negative religious, ethnic, or racial prejudice (based on grouping by religion, nationality, or race) is an antipathy based on faulty and inflexible generalization or stereotyping. According to Allport, it may be felt or expressed, and it is directed toward a group as a whole or toward an individual because he or she is a member of that group. Religious, ethnic, or racial prejudice persists for several reasons. Prejudice gives an individual a false sense of identity and self-worth; that is, a person may discriminate against others to make himself feel more powerful and to elevate his own self-esteem. Also, categorization and stereotyping often offer a convenient scapegoat for individual or group problems.
Prejudice, then, is generally the way one thinks or feels about a particular person or group. Discrimination is acting on that negative prejudice. Allport further explains that negative prejudice and discrimination are expressed in escalating levels of violence. These escalating levels of discrimination move from spoken abuse to genocide in the following order:
1. Spoken Abuse (which he calls Antilocution)
2. Avoidance
3. Discrimination or Legalized (Institutionalized) Racism
4. Violence Against People and Property
5. Extermination or Genocide (the systematic attempt to destroy an entire people)
Allport contends that minor forms of prejudice such as spoken abuse have a way of growing into more virulent and destructive forms of discrimination and violence. In the following excerpts from The Nature of Prejudice, author Gordon Allport identifies the problem of prejudice, describes the escalating levels of violence associated with prejudice, and defines the meaning of scapegoat in ancient and modern society.

The following excerpts have been taken from:
By Gordon W. Allport
Copyright (c) 1979, 1958, 1954. Reprinted by permission of Perseus Books Publishers,
a member of Perseus Books. L.L.C.

From: “What is the Problem?”
For myself, earth-bound and fettered to the scene of my activities, I confess that I do feel the differences of mankind, national and individual . . . I am, in plainer words, a bundle of prejudices—made up of likings and dislikings—the veriest thrall to sympathies, apathies, and antipathies.
Charles Lamb
In Rhodesia a white truck driver passed a group of idle natives and muttered, “They’re lazy brutes.” A few hours later he saw natives heaving two-hundred pound sacks of grain onto a truck, singing in rhythm to their work. “Savages,” he grumbled. “What do you expect?”
In one of the West Indies it was customary at one time for natives to hold their noses conspicuously whenever they passed an American on the street. And in England, during the war, it was said, “The only trouble with the Yanks is that they are over-paid, over-sexed, and over here.”
Polish people often called the Ukrainians “reptiles” to express their contempt for a group they regarded as ungrateful, revengeful, wily, and treacherous. At the same time Germans called their neighbors to the east “Polish cattle.” The Poles retaliated with “Prussian swine”—a jibe at the presumed uncouthness and lack of honor of the Germans.
In South Africa, the English, it is said, are against the Afrikaner; both are against the Jews; all three are opposed to the Indians; while all four conspire against the native black.
In Boston, a dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church was driving along a lonesome road on the outskirts of the city. Seeing a small Negro boy trudging along, the dignitary told his chauffeur to stop and give the boy a lift. Seated together in the back of the limousine, the cleric, to make conversation, asked, “Little Boy, are you a Catholic?” Wide-eyed with alarm, the boy replied, “No sir, it’s bad enough being colored without being one of those things.”
Pressed to tell what Chinese people really think of Americans, a Chinese student reluctantly replied, “Well, we think they are the best of the foreign devils.” This incident occurred before the Communist revolution in China. Today’s youth in China are trained to think of Americans as the worst of the foreign devils.
In Hungary, the saying is, “An anti-Semite is a person who hates the Jews more than is absolutely necessary.”
No corner of the world is free from group scorn. Being fettered to our respective cultures, we, like Charles Lamb, are bundles of prejudice.
From: “Acting Out Prejudice”
What people actually do in relation to groups they dislike is not always directly related to what they think or feel about them. Two employers, for example, may dislike Jews to an equal degree. One may keep his feelings to himself and may hire Jews on the same basis as any workers—perhaps because he wants to gain goodwill for his factory or store in the Jewish community. The other may translate his dislike into his employment policy, and refuse to hire Jews. Both men are prejudiced, but only one of them practices discrimination. As a rule discrimination has more immediate and serious social consequences than has prejudice.
It is true that any negative attitude tends somehow, somewhere, to express itself in action. Few people keep their antipathies entirely to themselves. The more intense the attitude, the more likely it is to result in vigorously hostile action.
We may venture to distinguish certain degrees of negative action from the least energetic to the most.
1. Antilocution. Most people who have prejudices talk about them. With like-minded friends, occasionally with strangers, they may express their antagonism freely. But many people never go beyond this mild degree of antipathetic action.
2. Avoidance. If the prejudice is more intense, it leads the individual to avoid members of the disliked group, even perhaps at the cost of considerable inconvenience. In this case, the bearer of prejudice does not directly inflict harm upon the group he dislikes. He takes the burden of accommodation and withdrawal entirely upon himself.
3. Discrimination. Here the prejudiced person makes detrimental distinctions of an active sort. He undertakes to exclude all members of the group in question from certain types of employment, from residential housing, political rights, educational or recreational opportunities, churches, hospitals, or from some other social privileges. Segregation is an institutionalized form of discrimination, enforced legally or by common custom.
4. Physical attack. Under conditions of heightened emotion prejudice may lead to acts of violence or semi-violence. An unwanted Negro family may be forcibly ejected from a neighborhood, or so severely threatened that it leaves in fear. Gravestones in Jewish cemeteries may be desecrated. The Northside’s Italian gang may lie in wait for the Southside’s Irish gang.
5. Extermination. Lynchings, pogroms, massacres, and the Hitlerian program of genocide mark the ultimate degree of violent expression of prejudice.
This five-point scale is not mathematically constructed, but it serves to call attention to the enormous range of activities that may issue from prejudiced attitudes and beliefs. While many people would never move from antilocution to avoidance; or from avoidance to active discrimination, or higher on the scale, still it is true that activity on one level makes transition to a more intense level easier. It was Hitler’s antilocution that led Germans to avoid their Jewish neighbors and erstwhile friends. This preparation made it easier to enact the Nürmberg laws of discrimination which, in turn, made the subsequent burning of synagogues and street attacks upon Jews seem natural. The final step in the macabre progression was the ovens at Auschwitz.
From the point of view of social consequences much “polite prejudice” is harmless enough—being confined to idle chatter. But unfortunately, the fateful progression is, in this century, growing in frequency. The resulting disruption in the human family is menacing. And as the peoples of the earth grow ever more interdependent, they can tolerate less well the mounting friction.
From: “Meaning of Scapegoat”
The term scapegoat originated in the famous ritual of the Hebrews, described in the Book of Leviticus (16:20-22). On the Day of Atonement a live goat was chosen by lot. The high priest, robed in linen garments, laid both his hands on the goat’s head, and confessed over it the iniquities of the children of Israel. The sins of the people thus symbolically transferred to the beast, it was taken out into the wilderness and let go. The people felt purged, and for the time being, guiltless.
The type of thinking here involved is not uncommon. From earliest times the notion has persisted that guilt and misfortune can be shifted from one man’s back to another. Animistic thinking confuses what is mental with what is physical. If a load of wood can be shifted, why not a load of sorrow or a load of guilt?
Nowadays we are likely to label this mental process projection. In other people we see the fear, anger, lust that reside primarily in ourselves. It is not we ourselves who are responsible for our misfortunes, but other people. In our common speech we recognize this failing in such phrases as “whipping-boy,” “taking it out on the dog,” or “scapegoat.”

1. In your own words, define scapegoat, prejudice, racism, and genocide.

2. How is prejudice learned? How is prejudice passed from one generation to another?
3. The Nazi regime institutionalized deep-seated prejudice against its perceived enemies of the State. How do avoidance and isolation foster fear of the unknown? How are ignorance, fear, prejudice, discrimination, and violence linked?

4. What are some examples of spoken (oral) abuse in modern American society? Who are society’s “scapegoats” today?

5. What is a “hate” crime and how might such a crime reflect the insidious nature of prejudice?

6. Using contemporary American or world history, cite an example of each of the five escalating levels of prejudice presented by psychologist Gordon Allport in his book The Nature of Prejudice: 1) Spoken Abuse, 2) Avoidance, 3) Discrimination (Legalized Racism), 4) Physical Attack, and 5) Extermination.
7. According to Gordon Allport, seemingly minor forms of prejudice can grow into more virulent forms of discrimination and violence. This transition becomes even more apparent upon examining the parallels between Allport’s levels of prejudice and the escalating levels of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that occurred during the Holocaust years. Using the timeline provided in Lesson 1, what are some examples of verbal abuse, avoidance, discrimination, and violence that mirror Allport’s escalation theory?

8. Research the first phase of the Holocaust (1933-1939) and increasing levels of persecution and violence instituted over the course of this period. Investigate Nazi Germany’s embrace of the Aryan ideology and probe how the escalating nature pf such prejudice could lead to its ultimate expression in genocide.
http://www.questia.com/read/98436694/the-nature-of-prejudice GORDON W. ALLPORTOne of the leading social psychologists of this century, Gordon W. Allport was born in 1897 in Montezuma, Indiana. He attended Harvard University, where he received his A.B. in 1919, his A.M. in 1921, and his Ph.D. in psychology in 1922. After graduate work at Cambridge, the University of Berlin, and the University of Hamburg, he taught in Istanbul, Turkey, and at Dartmouth College. From 1930 on, he was a professor of psychology at Harvard. Dr. Allport also served as president of both the American and Eastern Psychological associations, director of the National Opinion Research Center, and editor of the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. He was author of a number of books, including The Psychology of Rumor, The Individual and His Religion, Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, and Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality. Dr. Allport died in 1967.


As one who was fortunate enough to know Gordon Allport not only as one of America’s preeminent social psychologists, but also as a warm and compassionate friend, it is not easy for me to discuss his legacy in The Nature of Prejudice in isolation from his other contributions to social-psychological theory, research, and insights. And certainly one cannot understand Gordon Allport the social psychologist without understanding him as a social philosopher and as an empathic and warm human being.

Gordon Allport revealed a great deal about himself as a human being in the first edition of The Nature of Prejudice, published in 1954. But the clues to the quality of this person who dared to discuss the emotionally laden problem—the pathos and dilemmas of human prejudices—from the perspective of a social scientist are found as early as 1937. In the first edition of his classic book Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, Allport revealed much of himself in his discussion of the mature personality. In describing the attributes of a truly mature personality— the extension of the self; self-objectification, insight, and humor; and the unifying philosophy of life—Allport was inadvertently quite accurately describing himself, as those of us who know him could detect. His rather balanced reserve, his ego control, would make it difficult, if not unthinkable, to discuss this point with him. Nonetheless, he remains an outstanding example of the fact that a unifying philosophy of life dominated by human values permeated all aspects of and gave meaning to his life and work.

As is generally recognized, The Nature of Prejudice is a classic. Its table of contents establishes the parameters for a scholarly social science approach to the discussion and understanding of this complex human problem. Although changes in emphasis on particular aspects and dimensions of the dynamics and control of racial prejudices have been brought about by social, legal, and political activities within the past 25 years, the basic outline for the understanding of this overall problem remains essentially the same as presented by Allport.

What is not generally recognized or sufficiently stated for the audience of younger students of social problems is that in The Nature of Prejudice and in his other contributions, Allport, like Gunnar Myrdal, remains an outstanding model of a major social scientist who was not at all apologetic in his insistence that social science must be value-oriented. Allport and Myrdal demonstrated that it is possible for social science to contribute to the understanding and resolution of social problems and at the same time be value-oriented and socially sensitive. What is more important, Allport and Myrdal personify the insistence that thoughtful, moral, rationalistic social scientists must be the contemporary custodians of such enduring human ‘values as justice—and that trained human intelligence is an important weapon in the ongoing struggle against ignorance, superstition, and injustice.

These are important lessons which must be reemphasized, particularly in the light of developments within the past 25 years wherein it has again become fashionable for some well-publicized social scientists to retreat behind the protective pose of valuelessness, moral relativism, and mere quantification as the inviolable requirements of social science. It may not be a mere coincidence that the neoconservative trends among some contemporary social scientists have come in the wake of the backlash against racial progress sparked by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. This convenient escape, whereby some social scientists can avoid involvement in the struggle for social justice or can offer their services to those who seek to use their power to maintain the status quo, may be personally protective and “realistic.” But it is not social science in the Allport and Myrdal tradition. It is a subjectivity—a timidity or bias using the traditions, the methods, and the terminology of social science as a transparent cloak.

As early as 1937, Allport argued against the then early indications that the basic problems and potential truths of social science were likely to be obscured or distorted by the worship of statistics. He stated:

In any event, mere arrays of statistics are never capable of self‐ interpretation…. If the argument is sound, statistics can do no more than symbolize the fact; if the argument is unsound, statistical elaboration can never make it sound and may increase the confusion.

Many examples of Allport’s concern for the socially responsible use of social science, its reason for being, are to be found in his writings. In the foreword to the 1958 Anchor Edition of The Nature of Prejudice, Allport was prophetic in his critical analysis of the Supreme Court’s May 1955 “deliberate speed” directive for the implementation of the 1954 historic Brown v. Board of Education public school desegregation decision. He cited the evidence which showed that desegregation “comes about most easily in response to a firmly enforced executive order” and that “most citizens accept a forthright fait accompli with little protest or disorder. In part they do so because integrationist policies are usually in line with their own consciences (even though countering their prejudices).”

He then concluded:

Following this line of reasoning, it probably would have been psychologically sounder for the Supreme Court to have insisted upon prompt acquiescence with its ruling of 1954. “Deliberate speed” does not fix an early and inescapable date for compliance…. No firm and consistent course of action is agreed upon; leadership falters; countermovement flourish.

If one of the important indices of an objective scientific approach in the attempt to understand and control natural phenomena is the ability to make accurate predictions, then again Gordon Allport demonstrated by the prediction above that it is possible for social.concern to be compatible with and reinforce the solidity and relevance of social science.

This point is made very directly when Allport, in his discussion of the roots and manifestations of human hostility, asserts that we must “employ our intelligence effectively in controlling its destructiveness.”

Those of us who have been influenced by Gordon Allport and who admired his intellectual grade and his quiet, self-assured belief that the rational, cognitive, and moral potentials of human beings would eventually be antidotes to self-destructive ignorance and superstitions, are reassured by his faith that eventually humans will develop effective techniques to control their prejudices. Allport’s prophetic optimism that science can be the positive answer to the struggle for human survival is ironically implicit in the following quote:

It required years of labor and billions of dollars to gain the secret of the atom. It will take a still greater investment to gain the secrets of man’s irrational nature.

In the tradition of Gordon Allport, and as a tribute to his memory, it is the obligation of concerned social scientists to see that this imperative investment is made.

New York City


January 1979

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