Prejudice and stereotypes

When does prejudice become dangerous?

Prejudice is usually negative. It may influence the way we behave towards certain people, and the expectations we have of them. This can be very dangerous.

Prejudice can become dangerous if it is spread on a large scale. In media such as newspapers, tv, or radio, for instance. Or on social media. If negative things about a specific group are repeated over and over, then we have to be careful. Especially if no one counters these ideas, more and more people may end up believing the prejudice. 

Negative prejudices that are common in a society can cause tension between groups. Or result in groups of people being discriminated against or treated unequally on the basis of, for example, their background, skin colour, or religion. This is called discrimination. 

If members of a particular group - usually a minority - are often told that they don't belong, they may have trouble sustaining a positive self-image. There is a chance that some of them will turn their backs on society.

History has taught us what can happen when prejudice is spread by ‘the powers that be’. For instance, when politicians use it to win votes. Or when a government takes measures against a certain group on the basis of prejudice. That is when people are excluded and persecuted. And that is when prejudice becomes extremely dangerous.