Explain two theories of prejudice on individuals Essay Sample

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Racism or Racial prejudice means that a person is immediately for example disliked on the simple grounds of his/her skin colour and that the personal qualities of a black person are ignored. This racial prejudice can then lead to discrimination, which would be to treat the person in a worse manner on the grounds of his/ her colour.

Conflict theorists see societies as plagued with divisions, tensions and struggles. To the theorists, it is illusory to claim that people tend to live amicably with one other, even when there are no open confrontations, they argue that deep divisions of interests are present. Racism is an expression of one of those confrontations, whereby conflict theorists argue their case.

Ethnic minority groups are often associated with unemployment, inner city deprivation and high levels of crime. Marxists suggests that there is competition amongst groups with scarce resources. Such as housing and jobs, and that using ethnic minority groups as scapegoats, the rich exploit the poor to obscure the real reason for deprivation. Whites are encouraged to blame ethnic minority groups, resulting in hostility between races, rather than joining together to find common solutions to their problems. Therefore conflict becomes inevitable, because of dominant groups who will perpetuate and dominate their own ideology, that colour and race are stereotyped as being stupid, inferior and subservient to whites. Some sociologists, structuralists argue that it is the uneven distributions of power that causes conflict in society.

On the other hand, functionalists see the problem as a short term one. The assumption is based on assimilation, whereby ethnic minority groups would fit into our existing social structures. During the 60,s, there was an expectation that the immigrants would establish themselves into a British way of life, and that through time and socialisation, these groups would come to accept our values and norms.

Ethnic minority groups have to deal with many forms of discrimination, two of which are;

1 Housing

2 Employment

In housing, ethnic minority groups tend to face discrimination in renting private accommodation. They tend to live in older, poorer quality housing with inadequate facilities. Early difficulties showed that, when immigrant ethnic groups came to this country housing was expensive and rented accommodation often denied them, on the basis of their skin. The result was, that they bought into the cheapest houses available, usually in inner cities, areas of which were those that most whites wished to escape from. Those in council properties were found to be in the worst accommodation, often overcrowded, available from the councils this was partly because they wished to live together in communities to escape racial harassment, even if it meant living in poor accommodation. Equally, council and other not for profit housing organisations have been forced to adopt anti-discrimination policies, to prevent discrimination in rented accommodation.

In employment, all immigrant groups tend to be over represented in unskilled low paid jobs. In particular, black people, tend to be discriminated against in obtaining work, unemployment is high especially among youths, and tends to be much higher than the national average. Black people, who do not have jobs, are more likely to experience poorer working conditions and far fewer chances of promotion.

Discrimination against women

Historical factors and the traditional roles of women have a great deal to do with women’s current employment status. Women’s work has been undervalued throughout history as it has simply been regarded as an extension of the work they do within the home. During the 19th century, working class women had domestic-related jobs in clothing factories or as seamstresses, while middle-class women became teachers to support themselves until they married. In general, women were paid half of a man’s wage; men were often paid more for physical labour such as mining while women, working as nurses for example, were undervalued and underpaid despite their jobs also involving heavy lifting and dangerous tasks. These biases introduced occupational segregation, which suggested men and women tend to do different jobs as a result of their gender and women’s supposed lack of physical strength. Women faced a patronising and hypocritical attitude in the early 20th century, which resulted in a lack of recognition as workers and opportunities limited to menial chores.

The sexual division of labour in mills and factories was seen as ‘natural,’ a view supported by functionalists who believe the hierarchy of men above women enables society to function efficiently and without antagonism. Women were subjected to poor factory conditions, long hours and demanding duties. Furthermore, after an exhausting day’s work, they were expected to serve their husbands and continue with domestic duties. Victorian attitudes were still present and it was believed a woman’s place was in the home while the male ‘breadwinner’ dealt with the public domain and earned a living for his family.

There are many reasons for the increase of women’s participation in the labour force such as activist groups, the introduction of legislation regarding discrimination against women and changes brought about by World Wars I and II. Activist groups have undoubtedly played a major role in shaping the history of women. The suffragettes, established in the early 20th century, fought for the right to vote, showing women in a different light and bringing gender inequality to the attention of the public. The women wanted to abolish patriarchal society but their tactics, including arson attacks and hunger strikes, were not favoured by the government who refused to yield to violence by giving women the right to vote. The suffragette movement promised a great deal but delivered very little apart from voting rights. Nevertheless, their tactics had a degree of success and gained publicity, ensuring the issue of inequality was at least recognised.

The suffragettes contribution during the war played a large part in women being given the right to vote in 1918, showing women had more maturity and ability than they were previously given credit for. When war broke out, the suffragettes called off their campaign, urging women to take over jobs previously occupied by men. For a brief period, women were found in every profession, from agriculture to munitions factories, proving they were not as fragile and docile as assumed and could undertake strenuous labour while continuing to nurture their families as their husbands fought at war. However, when the war concluded, women were forced to revert back to their original roles as wives and mothers when men restarted their careers. The Second World War saw women, once again, encouraged to take over originally male-dominated jobs then return to the home in order to avoid any hostility that could occur as a result of men and women working in the same industries.

Many women gained independence from their war work, but in few areas did women achieve any permanent improvement in lifestyle and social status. Feminists argue that within a capitalist society, women are exploited and viewed as a ‘reserve army of labour’ to be employed or discharged according to when they are required(1). This is demonstated by their contribution to the war effort, where women were called into the workforce due to a shortage of male workers, and subsequently forced back into the home when men returned from war. Women had taken over the work of skilled men but were paid at a much lower rate. Consequently, after World War II, women’s economic status changed and it was seen as uneconomical to prevent women from working, hence the increase in women workers between 1979 and 1990, which saw the deindustrialisation of Britain.

The introduction of legislation concerning discrimination against women was another contributing factor to the increase of women in employment. In 1919, the Sex Disqualification Removal Act which made it illegal to exclude women from jobs because of their sex, was introduced, allowing women to enter such occupations as solicitors, barristers and magistrates. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was influential in narrowing the wage gap between men and women; female employees were to be treated equally to male colleagues engaging in similar tasks. In 1975, the Sex Disrimination Act was implemented, defining the concept of direct discrimination as an employer treating a woman less favourably than he would treat a man, making it illegal to distinguish between men and women in the workplace. Such equal opportunity laws have supported women in overcoming prejudice and pay equity states women should be granted the same opportunities in the labour market as men.

On the contrary, the Education Acts of 1902 and 1944 supported traditional roles of men and women, making it compulsory for girls only to study domestic subjects such as needlecraft and home economics, in order for them to become good housewives, while boys studied maths and sciences, acquiring technical skills. However, the Sex Discrimination Act now makes such separation of subjects illegal, girls are no longer denied access to subjects such as woodwork. Girls are increasingly gaining recognition for their scholastic achievements and an increase in women’s educational qualifications is seen as one of the main reasons for the boost in women’s participation in higher-ranking jobs.

According to the Scottish Executive, of the 75,000 entrants to Higher Education institutions in 2003, 57% were female. Girls also outperform boys in school with 26% of girls gaining 3 or more Highers at Grades A to C, while the corresponding figure for boys was 20% in 2000.(2) Therefore, current legislation and girl’s outstanding academic achievements have served to open opportunities for women in employment nevertheless, pay discrimination still occurs and indirect pay discrimination, when male employees are offered overtime or bonuses unavailable to female workers. is prevalent.

Industrial restructuring, which took place from1975 to 94, also caused dramatic changes in employment, for both men and women. This period saw the dramatic decline of manual jobs such as mining, steel production, and metal-based manufacturing held by skilled or semi-skilled while the service industry, comprising jobs traditionally carried out by women such as typing, data-entry and customer service, expanded, generating new jobs for women.

Women’s employment has increased substantially, it is predominantly in part-time work, presumably as this fits in with a woman’s family responsibilities. Part-time work was introduced in the mid-20th century to accommodate the labour shortage but became more widespread with the industrial restructuring which contradicted the notion that employment is permanent and full-time. So-called ‘twilight shifts,’ which began in the evenings, were introduced, permitting women to work for a few hours while their husbands took over the childcare. As well as benefiting women, allowing them to juggle other commitments, part-time work was advantageous to employers; compared with full-time work, it was low paid and low skilled and, until 2000, part time workers were not entitled to the same benefits as those who worked on a full-time basis. Feminists argues that part-time work is a mechanism for continued gender inequality as it reiterates the fact women are obliged to attend to domestic duties and are inferior to men who earn the primary income. Women are seen to be peripheral workers, despite the growing number of women in employment. The “glass ceiling” , where fewer woman are present in the lighter parts of organisations, shows there is still much to be done.


(1) IAN ROBERTSON Sociology Third Edition P324

(2) Scottish Executive web site


IAN ROBERTSON (Sociology third edition)

Sociology Themes and perspectives M. HARALABOS & M.HOLBORN

A New introduction to Sociology (Mike o,Donnell Second Edition

Social policy college handouts

Social issues for carers second edition

Social welfare alive third edition

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