Racial Discrimination Is Measured In Terms Of Poverty, Drug Addiction, Depravity, And Crime

01.4Prejudiced Attitudes And Racial Discrimination Are Measured In Terms Of Poverty, Drug Addiction, Depravity, and Crime

Prospectus For Thesis
1996

Prejudice: Empirical Data Beckoning Toward A Theory of Self, Ambivalence, And Tolerance

Yet see one day you will smell land where there be no land and on that day Ahab will go to his grave but he will rise again within the hour; he will rise and beckon, then all, all save one shall follow. — Moby Dick

Just as the lifeless arm of Captain Ahab, whose torn body lay entangled in the ropes of spent harpoon lances on the back of the great white whale, beckoned the crew of the Pequod to continue the hunt for the ubiquitous white whale, so to the noxious and dead weight of prejudice beckons the social scientist to uncover the cause of prejudice and thereby render the power of prejudice benign for future generations. However, like the unconquerable whale in Melville’s classic novel, prejudice is easy to recognize, but, heretofore, extremely difficult to anatomize.

This research project will attempt to advance an understanding of prejudice/tolerance by first, theoretically linking prejudice with the conceptual framework of ambivalence and then linking ambivalence, in its most fundamental form, with the concept of self. Third, this research project will attempt to produce data, in the form of responses to a survey questionnaire, which will be used to measure the proposed linkage of prejudiced attitudes, ambivalence, and the self-perception of private self-consciousness. Proceeding toward this end, respondents’ attitudes towards private self-consciousness, prejudiced attitudes toward racial minorities and prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities will be measured. More specifically, this research project will look at two different sets of data. Individuals will be surveyed in order to test whether the self-perception of private self-consciousness and prejudiced attitudes are related; and, individuals will be surveyed to test whether individuals prejudiced toward racial minorities are also prejudiced toward people with physical disabilities.

Significance Of The Problem

A study of prejudiced attitudes toward racial minorities, prejudiced attitudes toward person’s with physical disabilities, and attitudes on self-perception and self-reflection is also a study of human nature, group membership, and intergroup relationships. Group membership may be voluntarily selected or ascribed. In either case, however, group members, in the process of satisfying human needs, tend to classify, evaluate, and judge people according to intergroup norms. Also, group members tend to evaluate other people according to whether they are a member of the group, or, whether they are a member of an outgroup. Prejudiced attitudes towards members of other groups are the outcomes of this process. According to Samuel Gaertner (1986, p. 322), “[A]t the intergroup level, people act in terms of their social identity, more faithfully conforming to the group’s norms and also treating others in terms of their corresponding group memberships rather than their personal identities. Outgroup members, in particular, become depersonalized, undifferentiated, substitutable entities.”

In social relationships intergroup dynamics of prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups are usually described in terms of confrontation, violence and, depending on the scope of animosities, war. In American society, the evidence is all too convincing that prejudice persists at alarmingly high rates against such groups as African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, homosexuals, and Jews. In human costs, prejudiced attitudes and racial discrimination are measured in terms of poverty, drug addiction, depravity, and crime. Deriving a better understanding of the relationship between prejudiced attitudes towards both racial minorities and persons with physical disabilities will help us to better understand both intergroup relationships and prejudice.

This research project offers an opportunity to further our understanding of the process that results in prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups by furthering our understanding of the boundary making (labeling) process. Cognitive boundaries do not stand-alone; they are continuous with and informed by, socioeconomic status, linguistic expression, and cultural values. This research project will contribute data and a theoretical foundation for why a reduction in the salience of boundaries (intergroup identities) facilitates the likelihood of cooperative, self-restrained behavior among individuals and cooperative interaction between groups. The major theoretical premise directing this research project maintains that the need to reconcile ambivalence inducing thoughts, feelings, and desires has the potential to reshuffle and expand cognitive boundaries. Getting a better understanding of what constitutes non attachment to boundary conditions, particularly intergroup boundary conditions, will aid in the comprehension of the boundary making process that characterizes prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups.

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