In times like this, it is nearly impossible for people from different lifestyles to walk the streets without being subjected to some form of prejudice or discrimination. Especially if one lives in the United States, he or she is likely to experience prejudice or discrimination at some point in his or her life. Sometimes it might be difficult to distinguish between these two terms because they go hand in hand together but there is a very thin line that disassociates one from the other and makes them both very distinctive.
A person who displays prejudice holds negative attitudes against a group or an individual due to their personal or physical characteristics. To emphasize, holding prejudice against a group or individual is criticizing them without fully understanding their situation or lifestyle. However, it is possible to be prejudice towards someone without even realizing it, which is why it is so naturally widespread amongst those in society. Prejudice stems from stereotypes, and society has taught to judge a book by its cover. Prejudice is just a set of beliefs; a set of negative attitudes but it can have an enormous negative impact on the life of the person being judged. It can go as far as disrupting their self-esteem, and how they are seen within society. People are often subjected to prejudice based on their religion, race, sexual orientation, and ethnicity or even by the way they dress, but of course the list does not end there. For instance, one group of people that have been facing prejudice from the beginning is the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, members of this community face violence, hate and judgment very often (Braunstein 218). Same sex couples are often looked upon with distaste, just for being true to whom they are.
Prejudice and discrimination are similar in some aspects but what differentiates discrimination from prejudice is action. When prejudicial thoughts develop into action, it becomes discrimination. This is an actual behavior where people are being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation or their religion. There are various forms of discrimination; however, one of the most talked about is racial discrimination. When one hears the term discrimination people of color are often visualized, and this is because they are one of, if not the most discriminated against group in America. This is because people of color face discrimination on a daily basis in ways that can never be explained nor justified, and all because of something they have no control over, the color of their skin. Some how people forgo their humanity, they turned a blind eye to human traits and choose to live in a world consisting solely of black and white. It does not take much to see the extent of which our justice system is broken and so heavily influenced by racial discrimination, especially institutional racism, where we see in the news everyday how many black lives are lost at the hands of police brutality, where young black men are shot with the intent to kill. In addition, the United States Sentencing Commission came to the conclusion that black men face a 19.1 percent longer sentence than white men would even if they commit the same crime (Lopez 1). To see how racial discrimination affects the career opportunities of colored people, a field experiment was carried out where applications with similar qualifications were sent out to employers, and those applications with white sounding names were 50% likely to receive a positive response than equally qualified applicants with black sounding names (Pager and Western 223-224). Like prejudice, discrimination often affects the people that are being oppressed, such that, it can hinder life chances, ignite feelings of self-disgust, shame, anger, sadness and can even diminish the victim’s self esteem.
It is important to always take a step back and evaluate your thoughts to make sure they are not influenced by prejudice. People with prejudicial thoughts cling on to negative attitudes that they hold against an individual or a group without any regard of getting to know the person, they have already made up their mind about them. Even though prejudice and discrimination essentially go hand in hand they are very distinct from each other. Discrimination is ultimately prejudice brought to life, where thoughts become an action and people are treated unfairly on the basis of personal preferences and prejudice. As much as we wish issues like discrimination and prejudice do not exist, the fact is that they do, how long they stay relevant in our society is up to us. The fight for real change in our societies is one that is yet to be won.