Psychological Self-Help

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lives. History accounts for many cultural stereotypes, but our own personal
history also accounts for many of our biases too, e.g. you almost certainly
have a unique reaction to women who remind you of your mother.
Gordon Allport and W. E. B DuBois
Gordon Allport (1954) has deeply influenced psychologists' thinking about
prejudice, namely, that it is a natural, universal psychological process of
being frustrated or hostile and then displacing the anger from the real source
to innocent minorities. This explanation implies that prejudice takes place in
our heads. On the other hand, ninety years ago, a great black scholar, W. E.
B. DuBois, reminded whites that prejudice doesn't just spring from the human
mind in a vacuum (Gaines & Reed, 1995). It is social and economic
exploitation, not just a mental process, which contributes to prejudice against
the minority and to self-doubts within those discriminated against. For
example, Blacks, women, Orientals, the poor, the unattractive, etc. are all
discriminated against and, thus, constantly reminded that they are a
disadvantaged minority. Blacks, as a result of extreme prejudice, have dual
identities; they are both "American" and "Black" but neither identity is
entirely acceptable to many blacks. Thus, many blacks have ambivalent
attitudes about both "Americans" and "Blacks," and about who they are.
White America is devoted to individualism (“I’ll take care of myself, you take
care of yourself); African culture emphasizes caring for the group. For Blacks,
this is a no-win situation, a choice between trying to be like Whites (and
better off than others) or being Black (and worse off than most Americans but
trying to help your people). 
Following DuBois, many sociologists see prejudice as caused by social
problems, such as over-crowding in urban areas, overpopulation,
unemployment, competition between groups, etc. It has been found, for
example, that persons who are low in socioeconomic status or have lost
status are more prejudiced, perhaps because they look for people to blame--
for scapegoats. Rural and suburban America have always looked down on the
poor, urban dweller--80 years ago it was the Jews, Italians, and Irish, today it
is the blacks, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, etc. In effect, the victims of city life
were and are blamed for the crime and deterioration there. That's not fair, is
it? Also, competition between groups, as we will see, increases the hostility:
Jewish and black businesses compete in the slums, black and white men
compete for the same intensive-labor jobs, men and women compete for
promotions, etc. 
To see a scholarly re-evaluation of Allport’s The Nature of Prejudice and a
careful assessment of the 50 years of research following Allport’s book, see
Dovidio, Glick, & Budman (2005).
Prejudice can take many forms
A new prejudice can be learned quickly; yet, certain prejudices are very
resistant to change. The strength of the prejudice may suddenly change. In
many instances, a bias or prejudice can be very slight or subtle, i.e. one
might “short change” one employee, friend, or child so slightly that it is
imperceptible to others. In rare instances prejudice can also be so extremely
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