More often than not, prejudice takes in several aspects at both individual and group levels, making it rather difficult to determine what causes it. Are we prejudiced? Yes, naturally. Most of us will not be too enthusiastic about revealing their prejudices, let aside the reasons for them. Some of us may have become prejudiced through some hurtful events experienced in the past, but more often we become prejudiced while trying really hard to meet the requirements of the society we live in.
Gordon Allport, one of the first American psychologists to focus on the study of human personality, often referred to the fact that all societies have experienced prejudice in some form and to some degree (The Nature of Prejudice, 1954). It’s been always there. According to Allport, prejudice emerges, to some extent, as a result of normal human thinking. When we try to make sense of the world around us, we apparently sort information into mental categories and once we form those categories, they are the basis for normal prejudgment. Allport affirms that it is impossible to avoid this process.
However, there should be a way to improve our ability to avoid negative prejudgment. How can we bristle at prejudices? Perhaps try harder at educating ourselves and our children while the above mentioned categories are forming? In a book I totally love, Jane Eyre, I’ve read something that triggered this whole idea of starting a “Bristle at Prejudices” online battle and it wasn’t long before this became my personal branding message. Because everything evolves and circles around our prejudices. They shape us. Yet, of course, it should be us shaping whom we want to become, while enjoying this unique journey of transformation and crescendo that we call life. Unfolding and running under our eyes us just like a pianist’s hands dazzled by Chopin’s Nocturne.
This is what Charlotte Brontë wrote back in 1840s: “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.” When I first read this book in my early twenties I didn’t stop along those lines to ponder their heaviness. But many years later, when I took Brontë’s book in my hands again, I came across these lines and I suddenly paused. It got me thinking. What is a prejudice? It’s an opinion we form about something or someone without having any evidence, it’s an unreasonable bias. If you would like to look into more dictionary definitions, you’ll find that common features of prejudice include most often negative feelings, stereotyped beliefs, and a tendency to discriminate against others. And it seems so ordinary to humans, naturally driven by pride and vanity, to cultivate opinions and grow them into deeply rooted prejudices. Some consider that the lack of self-confidence is yet another reason for prejudice cultivation.
Being an incurable optimist – I actually believe that knowledge, self-learning, and our undivided willingness, are capable of successfully shaping us away from negative prejudices. And here I go again, one has to try it: bristle at prejudices! Not only will we get hurt in the long run, but we will feel constantly drained, our energy moving in all wrong directions. Just think about it for a moment, try to envision a powerful you, someone with a purpose, someone who has a map to follow towards pursuing their own happiness. Someone whose energy is completely focused towards shaping a world we all see with our mind’s eye.