The Social Psychology of Racism
The placement of an individual into a "category,"
and then attributing all the characteristics of a category of people to
that individual, without checking to see if that individual actually possess
those characteristics. Stereotyping is, therefore, the "categorical"
treatment of an individual.
For example, when walking down the street without
a watch and needing to know the time you see two men, both unknown to you,
walking towards you. One is middle-aged and dressed in a business
suit, the other has a large gold ear-ring and is wearing a leather jacket
with "Hell's Angels" logos on it. Who do you ask for the time?
Are you employing a stereotype?
This is a categorical treatment of an individual that
is also irrational (See Gordon Allport, "The Nature of Prejudice,"
For example, Allport found that a person who is anti-Semitic
is likely to "agree" with all these statements about American Jews:
"Much resentment against
Jews stems from their tendency to keep apart and exclude gentiles from
Jewish social life."
"Jews try to pry too
much into Christian activities and organizations and to seek too much recognition
and prestige from Christians."
"Jews tend to remain
a foreign element in American society, to preserve their old social standards
and resist the American way of life."
"Jews go too far in
hiding their Jewishness, especially such extremes as changing their names,
straightening noses, and imitating Christian manners and customs."
Such a dislike of Jews is indication of a prejudicial
stereotype -- the person is willing to be "irrational" just
so that they can express their dislike.
An individual who is frustrated tends to respond with
aggression. If it is difficult to direct the aggression at the source
of the frustration, often it is directed at an innocent third party, usually
one who is relatively weak. This is scapegoating.
For example, a Texas factory worker who has just lost
his job because of a plant closing blames "illegal immigrants" for stealing
his job. He and four co-workers get drunk and beat up two immigrants
An individual who has difficulty acknowledging an
ingredient in his own personality often "projects" that attribute onto
others and then expresses his dislike for it.
For example, a Baptist minister in Miami leads a campaign
to rescind a City charter resolution that made it illegal to discriminate
against homosexuals in the sale and rental of housing. He later is
arrested in the rest room of a public park for having sex with fourteen
year old boy.