Prejudice and the Need to be Right

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Some early studies about racial prejudice showed that we’re quite capable of reordering our perceptions of the world around us in order to maintain our conviction that we’re right.

 A group of white, middle-class New York City residents were presented with a picture of people on a subway. Two men were in the foreground. One was white, one was black. One wore a business suit, one was clothed in workman’s overalls. One was giving his money to the other man who was threatening him with a knife. 

Now as a matter of fact it was the black man who wore the suit, and it was he who was being robbed by the white laborer.

But such a picture didn’t square with the prejudices of the viewers. To them, white men were executives, black men were laborers and on welfare. Blacks were the robbers, whites were the victims.

And so they reported what their mind told them they saw — that a black man was assaulting a white man. As human beings who desperately desire our lives to be consistent and untroubled, we’ll go to great lengths to reject a message that implies that we’re wrong.

This study was done years ago. We don’t have as much prejudice as we did 40 years ago, BUT TODAY PREJUDICE IS MUCH MORE EDUCATED THAN IT USED TO BE.

Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without wasting time to get the facts. 

How are we, as individuals and as a community, blinded by our prejudices?

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