powerless and innocent person we blame for something he/she didn't do. By
blaming some person or some group, the real causes are overlooked or
hidden. German propaganda degraded and blamed the Jews for the countrys
economic problems and, in that way, reduced the blame on the Nazi
government and increased the hatred of Jews, thereby supporting their
extermination. Psychiatrists would say the Nazi denied their own hostility and
guilt and projected their selfish and angry traits to all Jews.
Prejudices are hard to change most of the time and hard to recognize part
of the time. Gordon Allport (1954) illustrates how a prejudiced person resists
"the facts" in this conversation:
Mr. X: The trouble with the Jews is that they only take care of
their own group.
Mr. Y: But the record of the Community Chest campaign shows
that they give more generously, in proportion to their numbers,
to the general charities of the community, than do non-Jews.
Mr. X: That shows they are always trying to buy favor and
intrude into Christian affairs. They think of nothing but money;
that is why there are so many Jewish bankers.
Mr. Y: But a recent study shows that the percentage of Jews in
the banking business is negligible, far smaller than the
percentage of non-Jews.
Mr. X: That's just it; they don't go in for respectable business;
they are only in the movie business or run night clubs.
A prejudiced person, like bigot Mr. X, is so inclined to hate Jews that a few
facts won't stop him/her. Sounds bad and it is. Are we all prejudiced? Surely
in some ways. Certain prejudices are so ingrained in our society it would be
hard to avoid them. Examples of negative prejudices you might not think of:
against eating grasshoppers, caterpillars, or ants, against a female doctor (we
think she is less competent than a male), against a man in a typically female
occupation like nursing or secretary, against a person who has just lost (we
see losers as less hard working or less competent--especially males who lose
because males are "supposed" to be successful), and against a couple who
decide to reverse the usual roles, i.e. the wife works while the husband stays
home with the children.
Historians would contend that prejudice can not be understood without a
sense of history. For example, slavery 150 years ago is related to today's
anti-black attitudes. Likewise, the religious wars 400 years ago between
Catholics and Protestants that killed thousands are related to today's distrust
of each religion by the other. During the 1500-1600s the Ottoman Empire
was wealthy and the most powerful empire in the world. Radical Muslims,
even some terrorists today, still resent the loss of their power and glory.
Almost 800 years ago during the Crusades, Christians on their way to wars in
the Holy Land slaughtered (in the name of the Prince of Peace) thousands of
eastern European Jews. Hitler reflected their attitudes. Anti-Semitism still