There are some factors today that are seen as norms, but they directly or indirectly contributing to prejudices and discrimination. These factors take no cognizance of what’s good in our individual diversities, but would emphasize and highlight always only on the prejudiced opinions about things they think that make us different. These factors are also the sources of discrimination in whatever varying degrees you might find it in our society today.
People are being discriminated against by others that have formed certain prejudiced opinions about them. Discrimination is always done against persons due to their beliefs, orientations, or attitudes that do not conform to that of the groups that see them as outcasts or aliens from their groups. Most known discrimination is by groups against other groups. For instance, sometimes in ancient Igbo culture, there was discrimination against ‘osu’ (osu – meaning those dedicated to the deities of the land and all their descendants) by others who considered themselves as freeborn. To fight discrimination, these individuals being discriminated against normally come together to form resistance groups to voice out their rights to avoid being trampled upon by some prejudiced minds out of their ignorance and most times their hatred and intolerance.
Some well know factors have been listed as sources or common factors that might directly or indirectly lead to prejudice and discrimination:
- Ethnocentrism: This is a type of discrimination that is formed against people just because of their ethnicity or where they come from. Mostly it starts with battle of superiority of cultures among the people. When people see themselves as culturally superior to any other people around them, they are likely to discriminate against them. Their prejudice that their own culture is better than that of others makes them to relegate the other ones as inferior to them. Man owns culture and communicates it through signs, symbols and languages and therefore should also try to limit the force by which such cultures bind him.
Ethnocentrism makes people to think and act in some stereotyped ways. It encloses people in and around artificial boundaries of ethnicity it creates, and disallows them to think out of the box. It makes people to be slaves of their cultures. They are most likely to see as evil, anything they seem not to understand or rather things that do not conform to their own cultures but available in other people’s cultures. Ethnocentrism is in fact one of the myopic factors that breed discrimination and prejudices. Its influence in the society today can never be overemphasized. Nigeria society today is a good example of a place where ethnocentrism seems to have grown above any known remedy, and this is in no doubt, tearing the fragile amalgamation of Nigeria done in 1914 by the British through Lord Fredrick Lugard apart. Mostly in politics and other facets of our national lives, almost nothing happens in the country today without being seeing by one ethnic group or the other as a target either for them or against them.
- Closed Group: Though this is similar to ethnocentrism in many ways, but this could also cut across not only the ethnic boundaries, but also through other groups. When people of the same characters or ways of life come together to form an exclusive group which is not open to everybody, but protects jealously and sometimes irrationally the interests of the minority group against the larger society, then, it’s another form of discrimination.
Most of these closed groups are known, while others are secret. Some of them are just social clubs or groups while others are occult and secret groups. Closed group could also be formed within an ethnic group when they have certain kind of vested interests in themselves alone, and shun any kind of open-mindedness towards other ethnic groups like in terms of marriage, where people from one ethnic group are not openly allowed to marry from another ethnic group.
- Socialization: These are the type of discrimination and prejudices we learn from our parents and people before us in the society. It is like traditionally approved discrimination, and most often were ignorantly attached to certain rituals, cultures or religious reasons or observances in order to justify such discrimination. We grew up to see such as norms, and then took them as normal, and would never act otherwise without being regarded as putting up rebellions against the traditions or religions that promotes this discrimination.
People are socialized right from their childhood to imbibe these principles and assimilate them as normal despite the flaws and inadequacies they have. It is a fact that most discrimination and prejudices we know or abide by today came into our minds through socialization. Therefore we were compelled to do things we wouldn’t have done, sometimes not because we are proud of doing them, but only because the culture and the social group or the society we live in totally support that and hold it as their own way of life. Socialization in our modern society today comes from different sources and through various means.
“The media—including television, movies, and advertising—also perpetuate demeaning images and stereotypes about assorted groups, such as ethnic minorities, women, gays and lesbians, the disabled, and the elderly.” Socialization has deepened through the advent of social media platforms which have made information superhighway and sharing of knowledge a possibility in this era.
- Conforming Behaviours: There are many people who subscribe to prejudice and discrimination as a means of escape from being judged as ‘obstacles’ or being rejected too as other people being discriminated against. For them not to lose their social status, they would rather conform to the society or the group that discriminates against the minority, not because it is in their right judgment to do so, but because if they do otherwise, they might face punishments. A particular family for instance, might have some issues with another family, which might be on a level of disagreement or dispute over lands or properties, but for the sake of conformity, individuals in these families would start to breed rancor and hatred on individual level just to protect the family interests. This could also be said about friends and associates who reject others simply based on their conforming obedience to the groups they belong to. Conforming behavior can also be formed due to one’s adherence to a particular social or religious group that frown at a particular issue they don’t tolerate.
- Economic Benefits: Discrimination can also be formed as a way of escape from economic woes. People of the same group might find it as means of helping each other when they discriminate against other people outside their groups while giving jobs and positions to applicants and employees.
When there are few jobs available and there are many people from different backgrounds applying for the same job, prejudice normally plays a lot of roles, and at the end, some people might be given jobs and positions not due to their merits and better qualifications over the rest, but due to they belong to a certain group that the employer or the interviewer also belongs. During economic and social stress, there is always increase in prejudices. In countries where there is high percentage of unemployment, it always reflects and hits back to the society through prejudice and discrimination. Groups and associations are formed primarily to make sure that certain people from the group get what they want first before others.
- Conflict Theory: This happens when the minority is being suppressed by the majority. Because some group of people might consider themselves majority in a particular place, they might use that to intimidate the minority and marginalize them. The result of this is always incessant conflicts between the majority and the minority groups. The minority, since they are not being given what is due to them because of discrimination, might resort to violence as their way of complaining and seeking attention against the injustice and seek for the situation to be redressed. Sometimes, the majority might be the ones using this to intimidate the minority into keeping quiet.
- Authoritarian Personality: Due to unconscious fear already programmed into their subconscious mind, some people seem to be naturally neutral even when their rights are being trampled upon. This kind of attitude comes from early socialization of such individuals. Socialization is the bonding in the society of many characters and varying temperaments. Thus, due to this unconscious fears that have been programmed into their minds, people grow up to learn that the best option is to be afraid rather than to bravely tackle their problems. They fear even fear itself, and prefer to conform to whatever anyone posing as authority prescribes for them.
They take the authority they revere as an intermediary between their spiritual world and the temporal world. Therefore, it is not allowed to be disobedient to such ‘powerful’ arbiter. In this kind of blind obedience, they do things they don’t even know why they do them. They are even too submissive to ask why they do things they do. They can go to any extreme and can vow to eliminate anything (human or nonhuman) that they viewed as standing as obstruction or against whatever they revere. We get this kind of persons mostly in religious circles where religions have been used as means of indoctrination and undeniably agents of discrimination. In this kind of circle, people are taught or brainwashed into conforming to whatever the religious authorities say without any open forum to dispute them even when it is obvious that the religious authority might be very wrong on their stands or their teachings.
Mostly this is one of the notorious ways through which intolerant society is born, because these people would never agree that any other opinion matters more than the one they have been indoctrinated or brought up to believe. They consider others who did not subscribe to their opinions as inferiors and could either be converted to their opinions or be eliminated. Sexuality and religious intolerance circulating around the globe today come to us through this means, and any intolerance that takes this shape is always a die-hard one.
 Cliffsnotes, “Prejudice and Discrimination”, http://www.cliffsnotes.com/sciences/sociology/race-and-ethnicity/prejudice-and-discrimination, 13/01/2017