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Jan Kubik
Rutgers Univeristy

Anti-Semitism is a prejudice or discrimination against Jewish people based on negative stereotypes. When Jews are considered an inferior "race" anti-Semitism turns into racism.

Discrimination occurs when a person is subjected to restrictions or receives unfair treatment on the basis of ascription to a group (or social category) without consideration for the individual merit. Moreover, the attributes of that group is said to have come from prejudiced stereotyping (see prejudice and stereotype).

Sometimes discrimination is seen as actual behavior, while prejudice is defined as an attitude. For example, Kornblum in a widely-used sociological text defines prejudice "as an attitude that prejudges a person, either positively or negatively, on the basis of real or imagined characteristics (stereotypes) of a group of which that person is a member. Discrimination, on the other hand, refers to actual unfair treatment of people on the basis of their group membership" (Kornblum 304).

Homophobia is prejudice or discrimination against homosexuals (gays or lesbians), often based on the negative stereotypes of their sexual orientation.

In-group versus out-group. This is an important distinction for the understanding of stereotypes. It refers to the difference between a group to which an individual belongs and is emotionally attached to and any of the groups that exist outside of this "zone of intimacy." Great sociologists, Georg Simmel observed that "in-group, out-group distinctions can form around almost any quality, even one that outsiders would not consider meaningful at all" (Kornblum 1988:144). The in-group, out-group distinction helps to establish boundaries between groups that are very difficult to abolish or bridge. Stereotypes, that is simplified images of the members of the out-group (or their characteristics), are often counterposed to the simplified self-images of the in-group. While the latter are usually very positive, the former tend to be derogatory and negative (see the Power Point presentation on self-stereotypes).

Prejudice is a negative or hostile attitude toward a person or group formed without just grounds or sufficient knowledge and based on negative stereotypes. Prejudice is based on hasty, unconsidered judgement and can lead to discrimination.

Racism is a prejudice or discrimination based on two assumptions: (1) that humans can be meaningfully divided into biologically separate races and (2) that the race determines specific traits and abilities of its "members," such as intelligence, type of skills or the general ability to acquire and develop "culture." Modern social science demonstrates that both assumptions are false.

Religious bigotry is prejudice or discrimination against members of other religions. It is often based on simplified and stereotypical ideas or images of "other" beliefs and religious practices.

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on negative (or positive) stereotypes of the male or female gender.

Stereotype. Stereotyping, a process in which a whole page of type is cast in a single mold so that a printing plate can be made from it, was invented by William Ged, a Scottish goldsmith, in 1725, Until the invention of the stereotype printing type had to be reset if a second printing was to be made. Ged took a plaster mold of the type and then cast the whole page in metal. He was also the inventor of the "Lost Wax" process of metal casting, used for reproducing delicate designs, especially in the jewellery trade. Stereotyping, all though invented by Ged in 1725, was reintroduced in 1784 by Alexander Tilloch, who improved upon the method of stereotyping.

In the social sciences, humanities, and journalism, stereotypes are usually defined as simplifying generalizations people use when they think about and/or act toward other individuals or groups. They help people systematize their thinking about other groups or individuals by providing them with ready-made images or list of attributes that purportedly reflect "the true essence" of other groups. Stereotypes do not take into account the many differences that exist among the individual members of the group. Since stereotypes are such handy and useful mental "short-cuts" they are pervasive in all cultures. They are found in myths, legends, everyday stories, painting, jokes, cartoons, even music. However, even if they are intended as harmless and joking cataloguing devices (as they often are), they usually have pernicious social effects. Those who use them hamper their own ability to develop more accurate, concrete, and empathetic understanding of other groups or individuals. Those who are targets of stereotyping are often also victims of PREJUDICE and DISCRIMINATION. In extreme situations, stereotypes are used to incite and justify violence; they can be turned into deadly weapons.

Examples of definitions of stereotypes:

In sociology: Stereotypes are "preconceived and oversimplified beliefs and expectations about the traits of members of a particular group that do not account for individual differences" (not- Kornblum 565)

In anthropology: "... the concept of stereotyping refers to the creation and consistent application of standardized notions of the cultural distinctiveness of a group. Stereotypes are held by dominated groups as well as by dominating ones, and they are widespread in societies with significant power differences as well as in societies where there is a rough power equilibrium between ethnic groups" (Ericksen 1993:23).

To learn more about the influence of Stereotypes on our global society, click on the links below:
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