Social Psychological Discrimination

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By Michael Meraz

Whether people would like to admit it or not, almost everyone exhibits some kind of behavior that can be classified as prejudice. While some might take offense to this statement, a loose definition of the word prejudice is the negative judgment of a group or its individual members. An example of this is if a person sees a group of younger, rowdier looking kids on a bus, one might be inclined to think that they might make your ride a little less enjoyable. Prejudice in itself is a natural thought process does not necessarily have to be connected with racism. It is not wrong or a crime to have certain prejudices, however, it is wrong when these prejudices turn into social psychological discrimination, which is the action taken due to the prejudices.

There are many different types of social psychological discrimination, some of the most obvious ranging from some of the most blatant acts of racism, such as hate crimes, and others such as refusal to hire a specific race or group. However, in today’s society, the forms of social psychological discrimination are not so obvious. Here is a list of the more subtle forms of discrimination.

  • Avoidance: This is the most common type of social psychological discrimination today. Some of it is done subconsciously, but it basically boils down to avoiding a particular group of people. Many people are aware of their tendencies to be uncomfortable around specific groups of individuals. If being around a group of homosexual males makes one feel uncomfortable, they are most likely to avoid this group whenever they can.
  • Tokenism: This phrase is best explained the common phrase “token black guy” which represents a sentiment of being the only person of color in a particular place due to the need for diversity. The idea of tokenism doesn’t only apply to races however. Many women report being treated as tokens in the workplace and feel that they were not hired based on their performance and qualifications alone. This form of social psychological discrimination can take place in almost any setting and is also very common.
  • Reverse discrimination: This form of social psychological discrimination occurs when an individual is so worried about being perceived as prejudice, that they go out of their way to help out a minority. An example of this would be a school teacher giving their minority students higher grades than the other students simply based on the idea of reverse discrimination. This is also a fairly common type of social psychological discrimination.
  • Residual prejudice: This form of social psychological discrimination is not as easy to see. This essentially is when an individual adamantly claims that they are not prejudice, when ultimately their actions and behavior patterns prove otherwise. This is one of the harder forms of social psychological discrimination to see.

Ultimately, have predetermined ideas about groups of individuals is a human trait. It is impossible not to. The more wisdom and experience an individual gains, the more they feel they know what to expect. It is when these ideas turn into actions when it becomes social psychological discrimination. The most common forms of subtle discrimination happen every day and are something our society should pay a little more attention to.