How Much Are Prejudices in Play for the Upcoming Elections?

Why do prejudices keeping coming up; Obama's race, Baldwin's sexual orientation and Romney's religion? Are we above it or mired in it?

To be honest, I have been quite surprised by comments that show up on various threads concerning a variety of prejudicial statements. They range from gender prejudices, to cultural prejudices, religious prejudices, and, of course, racial prejudices. What is disturbing is not necessarily the person/s making the statement/s, but the implicit support received from other comments.

You can always count on certain individuals, usually under some nom de plume, to be the source of such derision. I often wonder if they used their real names, if they would be so willing to make such outlandish statements.

It appears that as we get closer to elections, the prejudicial statements increase in frequency and intensity. With Barrack Obama’s election in 2008, I sincerely hoped that we had passed a major milestone in accepting a person of color to the highest office in the land and racial prejudice was now behind us. But, from the many racially motivated comments; it seems that we have yet to pass that milestone.

Congressional Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s run for the vacated U.S. Senate seat is also marred with prejudicial statements about her well-known sexual orientation. Often times I can’t tell which prejudice is more intense, her sexual orientation or the fact that she is a woman running for a traditional male seat. As far as I know, Wisconsin has never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate or the Governor’s office in its entire history.

I have also seen a number of prejudicial comments made about Mitt Romney’s religious affiliation with the LDS Church. This is unfortunate and indicates a severe intolerance of religious diversity. For some, his religious beliefs are prima facie evidence of his unsuitability to serve as president; it is equal to, if he might have come out and admitted to being an atheist.  

Prejudices and bias plays such a role in our society’s structure and values orientation that it’s hard to dismiss as inconsequential; especially at a time when we are looking at electing representation and leadership. How do people come to such prejudices in the first place?

Sociologists have identified three primary means for acquiring prejudices. The first is attributed to “nature” and is something that humans are born with; the fear of strangers or the unfamiliar. The second source of prejudice is an element of nurture, which is learned prejudice. The final source of acquisition of prejudice is through experiential personal events.

Natural Prejudice

The fear of the unfamiliar, including strangers, can easily be identified as something that is genetically hardwired into the species as a survival mechanism. The unfamiliar and strangers represent a danger to the primitive mind. Part of the socialization process of all humans includes a means for assessing the danger of the unfamiliar. In many cases the prejudices that are reinforced in the socialization process are necessary to provide for the well being of the individual. For example: Teaching a child to refuse to talk to strangers is a self protection device that must be continuously reinforced until the child displays a certain level of wariness to be able to afford a certain level of awareness to potentially dangerous situations.

Learned Cultural Prejudice

The accumulation of prejudice through cultural learning is something else entirely. These are values and attitudes that are separate from actuality and are based on presupposed beliefs of an individual or group about target individuals or groups. The target group is stereotyped as having certain negative characteristics that define them as less than fully human. It may include culture, gender, skin color, body type, dress, religion, sexual orientation, etc. A good example of this is classical racism. A racist is not born that way but must be taught to be that way. The holder of the prejudice assumes a higher status just by not being a member of the targeted racial group. What lies beneath all learned prejudices is a structural belief and value system that supports a superior status of the prejudiced individual and is reinforced by the natural proclivity of ethnocentrism and in extreme cases, xenophobia.  

I often hear members of the white majority talk in terms of reverse racism. That is a different type of prejudice, all together, and will be covered in the third means of prejudice accumulation. However, what some call reverse racism is nothing more than a reaction to the racism of the majority, with the majority the initial instigator of the prejudice. This is a common reaction of any minority to a majority that claims a higher status simply by means of being within the majority.

The acculturated (learned) prejudiced seems to constitute the most destructive type of prejudice or bias. In order for the individual to continue to hold their prejudicial views and beliefs, they must be continuously validated. Therefore, the holder of such views is unable or unwilling to perceive anything about the targeted individual or group that doesn’t validate the prejudiced belief. This is called selective perception. For example: Some are unable to accept that a person of say, a racial minority, was able to get into a prestigious education institution based strictly on their abilities and record, but must have been given some special status and consideration by lowering the requirements just to let in someone who is automatically less qualified because of race. The underlying belief is that it isn’t possible for someone of the targeted minority to have the attributes to have qualified independent of their race.

The destructiveness of this type of prejudice has plagued this nation for centuries and in many ways holds or society back from progressing and adapting beyond a certain level. It wasn’t that all long ago that it was illegal in many states for members of different races to date and marry.

In short, learned prejudices are not rational positions and evoke a response within the prejudiced individual that can’t be supported outside of the irrational beliefs.

Experiential Prejudice

The third means of acquiring prejudice is through that of personal experiences. This is when a detrimental act or acts are perpetrated on an individual and the individual attributing a negative characteristic onto the group as a whole who were the perpetrators. For example: My ex-father-in-law hated all Japanese. He served in the Navy during World War II and was severely wounded by a Japanese kamikaze, which killed the rest of his gun crew. He took this hatred to his deathbed. His prejudice is attributed to an incident of negative outcome.   

Experiential prejudice does have a core element of justification for the irrationally held belief. Many people learn to be prejudice against a certain group because it is necessary to be able to dehumanize them for survival. Often enemy combatants must be characterized in this way so that the natural prohibition against harming others is overcome.

The so-called reverse prejudice is always initially learned as an experientially prejudice. This is prejudice taken up by the minority against the majority who has dominance over the minority.  This also happens when a ruling minority subjugates, in some manner, the numerical majority. This was most evident after the fall of Hussein’s Iraq when sectarian violence sprang up between the ruling minority Sunnis and the subjugated majority of Shiites.  

Although, there is a core element of truth to the acquired prejudice, it can and does have negative consequences to the holder of the prejudice as well as the group, at which the prejudice is directed.

Prejudice in any form is something that divides society and creates differentiation that is counterproductive to social order and functioning. All of us are guilty of having and holding prejudices. It takes a great deal of effort to rid oneself of such beliefs. Some find their prejudices like the old tattered overcoat that makes one feel warm and secure.

As we draw ever closer to the election this November, I would encourage all to search their inner most being and to evaluate whether or not your selection is based on something other than deeply held irrational prejudices. Search one’s soul first before making your selection.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

H.E. Pennypacker November 02, 2012 at 06:50 PM
When in doubt, play the race card. Obongo can't compete on ideas, so blame whitey!!
John Wilson November 02, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Brian Dey - Actually, when you were a plant manager, there wasn't a plant in the world...
Brian Dey November 02, 2012 at 06:56 PM
If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you weren't a racist, then vote for Romney in 2012 to prove you're not an idiot. I am so sick of the left using race to excuse the poor performance of this lying, do nothing President. This guy is more interested in his golf swing then actually trying to fulfill the promises he made. Play the race card all you want, but black, white, yellow or brown, this is the worst President in modern times. Even if your your colorblind, you should see that.
John Wilson November 02, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Lyle Ruble - "You can't make something go away just by denying its existence." I have to disagree with you here; Republicans have been doing it for decades, they use the "Wishful Thinking" methodology... It goes along with the "If I say it is a fact, it is a fact." Furthermore, there is no entrance into their delusional "Wishful Thinking." Sorry, Lyle, it is what it is...
CowDung November 02, 2012 at 07:07 PM
If we wanted to stoop to their level, it wouldn't be too difficult to build a case to claim that those who don't vote for Romney are anti-Mormon bigots...
Brian Dey November 02, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Those that vote for Obama are anti-life.
Brian Carlson November 03, 2012 at 02:41 AM
CD... I imagine there are people who won't vote for Romney due to his particular religious persuasion.
Brian Carlson November 03, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Penny P, in case you didn't notice Obama has done quite well competing. He is the President of the US. This election is a dead heat. As to ideas, what are Mitts ideas? I really have listened for some.
Cricket November 03, 2012 at 02:53 AM
It should never have taken us until 2008 to elect someone other than a white male for president. I did not vote for Obama in 2008 and certainly will not on Tuesday, that said, I think he is a very nice man, I actually like him but I do not think he has been a good president at all. I think he and his policies have hurt our country and will continue to do so if he is reelected. I wonder though, how many did and will vote for him, just because he is black. That is almost reverse racism.
Brian Carlson November 03, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Cricket...quite right on the first point. Let me make an off the cuff litmus test for those who maintain that the race issue does not factor in this or all the previous elections, post slavery I guess because we can agree that black slaves had a poor chance of becoming President (hopefully?) If you think you are not racially biased ask yourself: 1. How many friends have you had in life? What percentage of those approximately were members of another race? 2. In the main neighborhoods in which you have lived, what percentage, ballpark, were families of another race? 3. If you were homeshopping and found a house you liked, that firt your needs, and then noticed that the family pictures on the wall were members of another race, would you buy the home? 4. On a list of the twenty most revered people in your life, people you think are outstanding, how many are members of another race? 5. You need a heart operation. You meet the doctor who is assigned to do the work and find it's a member of another race. Does this concern you at all? 6. What percentage of people did you date who were not members of your race? 7. If your son or daughter had been raving about a new love they had met and then announced plans to marry, were invited to your home and you saw then that the person was of another race, would your joy for your child change? I am not asking you specifically cricket....it's a general question.
Brian Carlson November 03, 2012 at 01:49 PM
As you rightly point out, it has been to long for this country to not have had a non-white President. Those who maintain that there has not been qualified people in the running, may well consider that, to gain the nomination of a party controlled by whites, the issue of race has been a damper to any would be candidates.....from the moment they tossed a hat in the ring. If there are literally never any qualified non-whites, an assumption I greatly disagree with, then one may assume that there are not equal opportunities for the sort of education required, the upward mobility that seems to be vital, the lower level jobs that typically provide platforms for Presidents etc. Safe to say that big money does not get behind non-whites until this past election. All race bias. I expect many, not all, of those who imagine that race does not effect national judgement, is not institutionalized in ways that limit the upward climb, etc., also believe that gender bias isn't the reason we still have had no top of the ticket females let alone Presidents. No qualified women? Not enough of them around? Get real friends. I am not looking for excuses for the President....he IS the President...an historic and incredible achievement in a country still very segregated in life. There are many questions I could choose that uncover racial bias or racism. I don't know that the bias has to be consciously maintained to qualify as racism nor does it seem to matter.
Brian Carlson November 03, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Agreed that reverse discrimination occurs btw.... But do you believe that ALL blacks back Obama Because he is black? That would be assuming they are not like yourselves.... Race blind...above discrimination....
Harry November 03, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Romney is #1! Obama gave us his best?
Cricket November 03, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I think neither race, gender or religious preference should factor in to presidency. Wasn't Kennedy the first catholic? and although I am too young to remember that, I believe that was a talking point at the time. Perhaps it is because other races and women have been too intimidated to even consider it. I remember Geraldine Ferraro seemed to be such a big deal at the time too. I live in Shorewood and can honestly say I can not think of any african americans in my immediate area - 2, 3 blocks or so. I can also say, that it would not matter to me. Over the years I have had african american friends, one I would socialize with quite a bit. She however, never wanted to go to "white" clubs or bars or restaurants, didn't feel comfortable with it. She was the only african american in our office of strictly white, upper middle class males. People are people to me - I can honestly say that. I would have no problem marrying someone of a different race. I do know my dad would probably have had a problem with it and remember my mom once saying that it would be tough on any children - these conversations would have happened 20 years ago however. Don't know how they would feel about it today. There is nothing about one's race or gender that makes them any better or worse at a job than anyone else. All humans are capable of all things. Unfortunately our society has led us to believe differently, starting with slavery. We can blame our forefathers for that ignorance.
Harry November 03, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Vote for Mitt Romney
Michael McClusky November 03, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Vote for Gary Johnson!
Harry November 03, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Gary's scary, Vote for Mitt Romney!
Michael McClusky November 03, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Romney's spine was removed a long time ago. Vote for Gary Johnson!
Brian Dey November 03, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I won't change your mid, I'm sure. Just remember, Ross Perot gaves us Clinton, and Gary Johnson, will give us 4 more of Obama. Taking a stand is great, but remember risk/reward.
Michael McClusky November 03, 2012 at 03:38 PM
@Brian Dey I am discouraging people from voting for either the Republican or Democratic candidates. Both campaigns are ignoring the US Supreme Court's recommendations on full disclosure of contributions and the separation of the PACS from the campaigns. Both candidates have agendas that we will never know.
Brian Carlson November 03, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Cricket....the reason there weren't many African Americans in shore wood is called steering in the realty world. Racism. The whites didn't want them there. Milwaukee has long held a title as one of the mostnracially segregated cities in the US. You seem to have decided to break with the tradition.... But this requires conscious effort. Many people dont think to even try to make it....Yes to Kennedy and the first Catholic. Still no women. How many Jewish Presidents have we had? People that ignore these facts are willfully ignorant members of the ruling majority. They are non-issues. If Jesse Jackson had become President back in the day...does anyone believe he wouldn't have had assassination attempts on him?
AWD November 03, 2012 at 04:03 PM
"In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever."
Cricket November 03, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I grew up in Bayside and can think of maybe 3 or 4 black families. This would have been in the 60's and 70's. Thought nothing about it at all. My freshman year at nicolet was the first for the 220 kids. What I remember most about that was that they all kind of clung together. I was pretty shy in high school so I didn't really gravitate towards anyone group at all initially but by sophomore and junior year I think things had pretty much settled down and I just don't recall it being an issue with them. There were never any fights or anything. As I think about it, it wasn't until I was in the restaurant business that I worked with more than one at a time either, again, it was a non issue for me at least, but I do recall some other coworkers perhaps raising their eyebrows - this was in the Northshore as well. I don't know what the answer is - I do recall thinking when Obama was elected that perhaps this would be a start to end segregation but to me it seems worse than when it was 4 years ago. You can't make people open up their minds if they are set against it. As to the Shorewood thing - we pride ourselves on being one of the most diverse suburbs and I know there are many african american family's here, just not in my immediate area that I am aware of. Then again, after more than 20 years I don't even know some people a block over. Perhaps it is because I do not have kids.
Mafia Mike November 03, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Hahahahaha!!!! That's pretty funny Greg!
Brian Carlson November 04, 2012 at 02:48 PM
AWD.... What sick bastard does that pathetic quote come from?
Lyle Ruble November 04, 2012 at 03:50 PM
@AWD....You have a deep dark cancer growing in your soul. You can now be categorized as sub human.
AWD November 04, 2012 at 04:08 PM
It’s a famous quote from George Wallace's 1963 Inaugural Address. I remember coming home from school when I was 10 years old and my Father telling me George Wallace was shot. I was sad, my Father supported George Wallace in his run for President and at that young of age I too could see the wisdom in what Governor George Wallace was predicting for America's future. George Wallace ended up being right. Black people as a whole are the single most drain on the United States and will ultimately result in its ruination. As of now, entire sections of our cities have been destroyed (Brown Deer for example) and it's only getting worse.
Brian Carlson November 04, 2012 at 11:23 PM
All White D.... What does the d stand for? The single refreshing thing about you is you wear your racism on your sleeve... Everything you have to say is ignorant... But you have been raised to hate people, to denigrate them and to draw sweeping conclusions from select examples. You can't see a difference between poverty and race, can't see causative factors in what little you see that are institutionalized....built into the structure of our system. I find your views pathetic.
Brian Carlson November 04, 2012 at 11:23 PM
But at least you don't fool yourself about your racism...
Brian Carlson November 04, 2012 at 11:27 PM
You have also made Lyles case and turned over the protests of those who hold that race is no factor in electing Presidents. You are the poster boy of racists on these blogs. Congrats.


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