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«PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION Edited by HARVEY SIEGEL. OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS CHAPTER PREJUDICE LAWRENCE BLUM PREJUDICE and stereotypes are often grouped ...»

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THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF

PHILOSOPHY OF

EDUCATION

Edited by

HARVEY SIEGEL

. OXFORD

UNIVERSITY PRESS

CHAPTER

PREJUDICE

LAWRENCE BLUM

PREJUDICE and stereotypes are often grouped together as ways that we misrelate to our fellow humans, based on their group identities. Stereotypes often generate prejudices; if I regard group X as stupid, venal, or dishonest, I am likely to have an antipathy toward group X that constitutes prejudice. Prejudices generally involve stereotypes also; if I have antipathy toward group Y, I am likely to attribute certain negative characteristics to them in a stereotypical way. Similarly, both stereotypes and prejudice pose educational challenges. Both involve irrationality in beliefs about human groups, and both involve violating appropriate regard and respect for our fellow human beings. Avoiding these moral and epistemological pitfalls is an important task of education.

Yet prejudice and stereotypes are distinct phenomena and require distinct treatment. People can stereotype without necessarily being prejudiced. They may hold various stereotypic associations with various groups without either having any negative affect toward the group or assessing the group negatively. This is partly because stereotypes can be positive, attributing a generally favorable trait to the group-blacks being good athletes, Asians being good students, and so on. The stereotype is still objectionable, as all stereotypes are, but does not necessarily involve prejudice. But even negative stereotypes do not necessarily rise to the level of actual prejudice, which is a more robust negative attitude toward the group. So someone might think that Asians are devious and untrustworthy, yet not form an actual prejudice against Asians based on that attribution. In this entry, I will be focusing on prejudice, and will discuss stereotypes only incidentally.

The linguistic origin of prejudice lies in prejudgment, or making a judgment prior to having adequate evidentiary basis for it. But the contemporary notion of prejudice involves an affective component as well as a judgmental one. If I judge group X to have such and such characteristics, though I have little basis for doing

45 2 THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION

yet if I have no feeling for or against group X, I would not be spoken of as SO, prejudiced against group X. At the same time, a pure antipathy toward group X without any accompanying evaluations or judgments ("I'm not saying there is anything wrong with Mexicans-I just hate them") would not generally be spoken of as prejudice either, though this is not a very common phenomenon.

Prejudices can be favorable toward a group, not only antipathetic to them.

However, of greater concern from a moral and educational perspective is the much more common phenomenon of prejudice as ~'prejudice against," and I will from this point on use prejudice only with this meaning.

Of the two components of prejudice, negative affect and (unwarranted) negative evaluation/judgment, neither has causal or definitional primacy. Judging or stereotyping group X as lazy, dishonest, and foolish can lead to antipathy toward its members; but an antipathy can be primary and can give rise to negative judgments that appear to rationalize the antipathy.

Almost anything can be a target of prejudice or stereotyping-individual persons, types of music, cities-but the study of prejudice has generally focused on human groups, or persons as members of such groups, no doubt because these are very common forms of prejudice and present moral challenges as harmful or disrespectful to persons. (If I am prejudiced against baseball, there seems no harm in this.) So human groups and human persons will be our subject. Yet the way that human persons are the target of prejudice allows for other related and derivative targets.

Someone who dislikes blacks may also, derivatively, dislike what she regards as black characteristics, or characteristics she associates with blacks, in other persons or things (Piper 1990). For example, she may dislike hip-hop styles, when exhibited by whites or other nonblacks. That is, prejudice against blacks can involve prejudice against "blackness," which the subject can see in nonblacks. Prejudice does not require that the connection between black persons and the characteristic or object in question be in any way a valid one, only that the subject make that connection in her own mind; if someone dislikes a kind of music because she associates it with blacks, when in fact the music is Greek in origin, this dislike is still, for that person, part of prejudice against blacks.

Not all hostility toward human groups is prejudice, for some of it is justified.

Prejudice must be unjustified; that is part of why it is morally wrong. Hostility toward Nazis is justified and, more generally, hostility to groups defined by a commitment to bad beliefs or actions is justified. Of course, it is not always easy, or possible, to determine what is bad in the sense required here. But most groups are not united around a bad project in this way; and ethnic, racial, religious, and national groups-those with which prejudice research has been primarily concerned-are not, so that antipathy toward them is always unjustified and is prejudice. And antipathy toward whole groups based on the bad behavior or characteristics of only some of its members is a paradigm of prejudice.





Since prejudice is, by definition, wrong or bad, people seldom avow prejudices as such, though they might avow an attitude they recognize others to view as prejudice. So there are two different ways prejudice can fail to be acknowledged.

PREJUDICE 453 One is that persons can hold antipathies toward a group, but regard those antipathies as warranted; they wrongly believe that the group in question possesses traits that warrant the group antipathy-Mexicans as lazy, Muslims as terrorists, Jews as greedy and cheap, and so on. So such persons acknowledge the antipathy but not that this constitutes prejudice.

A second very common way that prejudices can be unacknowledged is that a person might harbor antipathy toward a group and have negative evaluations of the group, yet be unaware of doing so. There is an important historical dimension to this form of nonconscious prejudice that can be illustrated in the case of racial prejudice. For centuries in the United States, holding antipathetic or disparaging views of black people was expected and normal among the white majority; this was true as well toward other nonwhite groups, and (in the early part of the twentieth century) toward many (white) immigrant groups also. Such negative assessments of whole ethnic groups were not thought to be wrong or misplaced. Over time, and largely because of the challenges to these prejudices spearheaded by blacks and, later, other racial and ethnic minorities, the idea that it was wrong to hold such views became normative, especially in public venues but in many personal ones as well. This development resulted in an incentive for people to be prejudice-free and to be thought to be prejudice-free.

This incentive did not result in the disappearance of racial and ethnic prejudices, although the striking diminishing of certain avowed prejudices (e.g., in opposition to racial integration) on opinion surveys from, say, the 1930S until today surely reflects some reduction in actual prejudice. But another effect of the incentive was the mere reduction in overt expressions of prejudice, both because many people learned to express their prejudiCes in a way that would not garner social disapproval and because many people masked their possession of those prejudices from themselves. As a result, it is much more difficult to discern when someone has racial prejudices than in earlier periods. And unconscious prejudice raises distinct moral issues. If someone does not know she is prejudiced do we not think of her as less responsible for her prejudice than if she is aware of that prejudice and accepts it? (Of course, she could be aware of it and be in the process of attempting to rid herself of them also.)

1. DELIMITING "PREJUDICE"

Sometimes the term "prejudice" is used to encompass any and all negative affect toward human groups. This can be misleading, in two different ways. First, some negative feelings toward a group are so intense and extreme that the word prejudice seems too pallid to capture them. To say that Southern whites who lynched African Americans were "prejudiced" against them seems too weak for attitudes that would prompt such conduct, just as it would be to say that Hitler was "prejudiced" against

THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION

Jews. Although prejudices can themselves be of different strengths or intensities_ someone can be more prejudiced against gays than Latinos, for example, and person A can be more prejudiced (against a given group) than person B-there seems to be some maximal threshold, not necessarily specifiable in any definitive way, beyond which the sentiment or attitude in question becomes something worse than prejudice. Similarly, some negative affect seems to be too weak or minimal to count as prejudice-f~r example, a mild discomfort in the presence of a member of the outgroup. It is not that such discomfort should be regarded as an acceptable feeling, only that the term "prejudice" implies something stronger.

A different potential confusion about the scope of prejudice relates to its standard definition, which I have accepted, as involving a negative affect and evaluation toward the group in question. Not every objectionable and unwarranted attitude toward human groups satisfies that definition. During Jim Crow segregation, many whites who employed blacks as servants felt genuine affection and care toward their employees; they did not have a "negative affect" such as antipathy, hostility, or dislike toward them. And yet they generally made the racist assumption that blacks' proper role in life was to serve white people, and that this was true of these valued servants as well.

Obviously, this is an entirely morally objectionable view of blacks. So, objectionable attitudes toward a group do not always involve negative feelings toward the group.

One can demean or patronize a group without such negative feeling. However, the ideology that blacks' proper place is to serve and be deferential to whites does tend to generate hostility and hatred toward those particular blacks who defy or fail adequately to conform, in whites' minds, to this expectation.

That objectionable racial attitudes do not necessarily involve antipathy or other negative affect illustrates a larger point about prejudice that applies beyond the domain of race. Objectionable sexist attitudes toward women can exemplify this point as well, as when women are seen as delicate flowers requiring male protection, objects of display for successful or powerful men, being ill-suited to "male domains" of work, and so on.

lt would be morally arbitrary to confine a concern with objectionable and unwarranted individual attitudes toward groups to those involving negative affect toward the group. That subcategory is not necessarily more objectionable in any general sense than the disrespect involved in regarding group X as suited only to serve a "superior"group. And in fact, most psychologists studying prejudice often tacitly include the broader category of objectionable attitudes toward groups in their theories and research, even when their official definition of prejudice restricts it to negative affect. I will, therefore, take both the broader and the narrower category as my concern here, attempting to be clear about which is being discussed, while recognizing that the word prejudice as ordinarily used does not reliably track that broader view.

This lack of clarity about the appropriate scope of prejudice research arises in an acute and productive way in contemporary theories of racism or racial prejudice. As mentioned earlier, social psychologists and political psychologists recognize that expression of overt racial prejudice is no longer socially acceptable in most venues, but that actual prejudice has not declined to the same degree as its PREJUDICE ·+55 overt expression. New theories about the character of objectionable racial attitudes attempt to come to grips with the subtler or less blatant forms of these attitudes.

For example, an important finding from opinion research is that some white people express opposition to the idea that the government should do anything to improve the situation of black people, but they do not express anything like the same hostility to black people themselves, either individually or as a group. There is a lively scholarly debate about whether the former view should be interpreted as a new form of racial prejudice, a perhaps unconscious displacement of a nowstigmatized prejudice into an acceptable political stance. (The names "modern racism" and "symbolic racism" have been used to label such a view.) Others draw a sharper distinction between traditional racial antipathy and political ideology.

Without weighing in on this complex dispute, there certainly seems a distinction worth making between an antipathy toward a group itself and its actual members, and an opposition toward the legitimate interests that that group presents in the political arena. The former may seem more objectionable than the latter; but this does not"mean that the latter is acceptable. Suppose someone is opposed to the government's (at any level) doing anything to rectify the legacy of racial injustice from which blacks in the United States and elsewhere currently suffer. There may be different reasons that someone might hold such a view, ranging from straight prejudice against blacks to a pure libertarian ideology that thinks the government should be no more than a "minimal state." (Those reasons are explored in the literature just mentioned.) Nevertheless, the view itself is morally problematic, in that it involves blindness to or a failure to be moved by injustice. The exploration of prejudice should be concerned also with blindness to injustice (toward particular groups), and why some people have this blindness, as well as with other similar.



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