Shortly after the end of World War II the United States Government commissioned a social scientist by the name of Gordon Allport to see if he could determine what the psychological causes were that lay beneath the Holocaust. Their plan was to recognize the varying degrees of prejudice in it’s earliest stages that being committed against a given people or group of people and to take action in the early stages to prevent that episode in history from ever occurring again.
In his work, “The Nature of Prejudice” Allport came up with five stages of prejudice which eventually led up to the Holocaust. In looking at them today, to me some seem quite obvious while others seem quite subtle. In fact, all you have to do is substitute one group for another and the message comes through loud and clear.
While I don’t think we’ll ever see anything top the Holocaust in terms of sheer numbers, the genocides that have taken place in countries such as Rwanda, Sudan and the quagmire that has become the Middle East don’t offer me up too much in the way of hope
Stage One – Antilocution
We’ve all heard the old saying that “Sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you” and when taken at a personal level, in most cases that’s probably a true statement. However, when you start branding or labeling a whole race of people based on generalities you find yourself getting into some trouble. When society as a whole starts accepting this as the norm and starts believing that that’s just how things are, the water tends to get murky.
Here in the States, both Liberals and Conservatives tend to paint their own version of the political landscape with a very wide brush often forcing one that is stuck in the middle to choose sides or risk being labeled as either.
It’s phony and it’s wrong.
Stage Two – Avoidance
This occurs in two ways. The first is when one entity is physically removed from other members of society. Any of you who have grown up in a large American city probably know that it ain’t too safe to be wondering around on the wrong side of the tracks when the sun goes down. I’m not just talking about color here either, lines are drawn on religious, ethnic and sexual stereotypes that are hard to cross.
The second type of avoidance comes regarding a peoples history. Some whites bitch about Black History Month and some blacks can only find whites at the head of every major corporate entity in the United States. Women’s history is trivialized by males and males are underappreciated by feminists. The circle continues and seems to expand and gather more and more people inside of it, all of them with their own axe to grind.
Stage Three – Discrimination
Equal opportunity, racial quotas when it comes to jobs/education/housing, age discrimination in employment and health care, sexual orientation when it comes to just about everything under the sun and physical handicaps that prevent one from doing something in the same manner as someone else. The list is endless.
I’m guessing that here in the States, everyone probably feels like they’ve been shit on once or twice in their lives for reasons that aren’t their own.
Democracy at its finest.
Although Allport didn’t originally list “Subtle Agression” as one of his qualifiers on the prejudicial scale, it’s there now.
It comes as a belief that there are entitlements that only a certain class of people are allowed top have. I read that as being rich versus poor or that “those people”, whoever they are, cannot be trusted with any degree of power.
Stage Four – Physical Attack
Sorta speaks for itself. Burning crosses on peoples lawns, torching churches or businesses, painting swastikass, date rape, targeting homosexuals are just some of the favorites when it comes pitting one or more groups against another.
Stage Five – Elimination
What Adolph Hitler referred to as “The Ultimate Solution”. Since then, its resurrected itself in many forms. Today, most people in the States would see it as the rise of what is termed as “radical Islamic fundamentalists” and their jihad against the infidels of the West. In other parts of the world it might be seen as Arab versus Jew, Sunni versus Shia, Tutsi versus Hutu or Serbs versus Croats.
For the most part, most of it is done under the auspices of ethnic cleansing or religious intolerance or some sort of homophobia.
In closing, there’s enough prejudice to go around for just about anybody. I’m just glad I’m not a bisexual trans-gendered half Muslim/Jew with nappy hair whose one set of parents had the good fortune of being rich while the other set struggled through poverty to get where they are and then I just happened to fall in love with a member of the Caucasian race who walked with a noticeable limp and spoke with a clearly discernable accent of undetermined origin.
Then, the whole world would be against me.