Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Do white people have an unconcious collective prejudice against those of color?

  1. Feb 19, 2005 #1
    At the risk of being flamed, I am going to throw this into the arena for discussion, for the issue seriously concerns me, so here goes. First to qualify:
    I am a white Australian of 44. I have traveled the world extensively always as a backpacker. This keeps my feet firmly on the ground and is a far more pleasurable experience than hotel lobby to hotel lobby type travel. You just seem to meet the nicest people this way. I've traveled through many continents including Europe, Africa (was there for the 94 elections, God Bless Nelson Mandela, what a spirit) and many more. I have lived in Brasil for 11 years now.
    And here is the point:
    I have come to the sad conclusion after all these years that we white people seem to be born with an unconscious prejudice against our brethren of color. Yes even those of us who declare ourselves to be non racists.

    I have thought long and hard about this, and it is the only reason I can think of to explain the fact that in every country whose population comprises a mix of races, (Brasil is a great example), those of color have fewer opportunities, less education, less possibilities of good employment, lower life expectancy and are also subject to prejudice from all areas including the police (even if they themselves are of color). We have all seen the statistics.
    Often, if a white employer has two equally qualified candidates for a position and one is white and the other of color, guess who has a statistically better chance of getting the job?
    Here in Brasil, most middleclass families have a maid, most often, colored.
    While the family may have an income upwards of 10,000 Brasilian $ per month, the maid receives an average of 400 per month. If she happens to live-in, she can expect a bedroom smaller than the owner’s toilet. And 70% of these maids do not have thir government "work book" signed which means that their job is in fact, informal. If the book is not signed, the "employer" avoids paying taxes and retirement funds for them. And so when they are too old to work they are put on the streets with no retirement benifits.

    So, assuming my theory is correct, (and it may not be).
    Why is it so, why do we white people seem have a colective prejudice?
    Any ideas?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2005 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    racism is taught, not a part of our biological makeup. it would seem this is more of your experience/opinion of this perspective, are there statistics you can draw from to back it up?
  4. Feb 19, 2005 #3
  5. Feb 19, 2005 #4
    You seem to have avoided historical context altogether, arriving at your conclusion almost exclusively on the basis that the problems of today have entirely current causes. Much of what you described can be traced back to the colonial years. Imho, what we live in today, horrible as it may seem, is an improvement.
  6. Feb 19, 2005 #5
    I see your point, and you are right. I am not focusing on historical context. I'm just looking at the facts as they appear to me today. I mentioned in my post that these observations may or may may not be true. I would prefer to look forward as to how these issues can be resolved rather than to the past. And yes Colonialism has a lot to answer for to be sure.
    (edit) and nowhere did I mention the causes
  7. Feb 19, 2005 #6
    Regarding the study of prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination I would suggest Ruppert Brown's, Prejudice.

    My (or actually Henry Tajfel's) take is that regardless of the reasons for racism or prejudice against people with different 'races', the phenomenon of minimal group behavior (and cognitive cathegorization) will always cause people identifying themselves with an in-group to discriminate against members of an out-group, no matter what that group is (ie. skin color, nationality, hair color, x/y). In that sense, you could say people with white skin has an "unconscious collective prejudice' against non-whites. But equally correct would be to claim that dark skinned people has prejudice against non-dark-skinned.

    However, the above will not even nearly explain the statistics you presented. For that, I think history has much more to offer.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2005
  8. Feb 19, 2005 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    In all of the parts of the United States that I have been to, it is evident that black males have a preference for nonblack females. It is not at all politically correct to note this, I know. But it is obviously the truth.

    Have you, Ward, noticed the same thing in places where you have been? If so, do you consider it to be a form of racism on the part of black men against women of their own color?
  9. Feb 19, 2005 #8
    On the same tone, I think that dark-skinned people (most) have an inferiority complex when they see whites.

    For example, in India because I meet many people here, you have grandmothers, grandfathers, any elders, if they have a relative who has gone to America, the first question they ask when the relative calls back to India is "Has your child (if they have a child) or yourself gotten any whiter (paler)?" Now I am not going to generalize this, but I can say that this happens in most cases. This is still a hangover from the colonial period ( No dogs or Indians allowed; No dogs or chinese allowed, etc.)
  10. Feb 19, 2005 #9
    Well said. This also suggests that prejudice is the norm, and to get beyond it is an achievement rather than something to be glibly demanded.
  11. Feb 19, 2005 #10
    It should be mentioned that in India there is the caste system, where the lightest skinned are at the top & darkest at the bottom. (I sometimes wonder if this doesn't have something to do with the more outdoor work that the delets tend to do). When seen in this light, the comments of the masi can be seen more as a wish for upward social mobility than a derogatory comment on race. (Note for honkeys: masi = aunt).
  12. Feb 19, 2005 #11
    Oh, I would say the exact opposite is happening regarding the caste system here, in fact the Brahmins or the top castes sometimes identify themselves as lower castes in certifcates because in education for example college and also other sectors, the gov. gives lower castes more seats than higher castes, I think it would be similar to the affirmative action in the US, for example a brahmin or any other higher caste person have a lesser amount of seats in college than lower castes, and the lower castes need a smaller percentage of marks to get in, for example if a lower caste person gets 85 percent, it is given more worth than if a higher caste person gets 94 or so percent. So nowadays, higher castes actually want to be identified as lower castes.
  13. Feb 19, 2005 #12
    Thank you. And a very worthy achievement, if I may add.
  14. Feb 19, 2005 #13
    Wow! I never realised things had changed so much. Was this brought in before the BJP? Can a Brahmin legitimately call themselves delet?
  15. Feb 19, 2005 #14
    You're not Jewish are you?
  16. Feb 19, 2005 #15
    Sorry to interupt you guys, but this is an emergency (and not what you think) :biggrin: 42, your inbox is full again, and I need to tell you the GPS position of Bin Laden :biggrin: .
  17. Feb 19, 2005 #16
    Yes, in fact I am. But I'm not religious. How did you guess?
  18. Feb 19, 2005 #17
    You haven't picked up on the irony of being asked this on the Are WASPS racist thread?
  19. Feb 19, 2005 #18


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    "I have come to the sad conclusion after all these years that we white people seem to be born with an unconscious prejudice against our brethren of color."

    If I may:

    1] Anecdotal information - even yours (though you have an impressive worldliness) - is poor evidence for drawing objective conclusions.

    2] There is very rarely consideration for racism between other cultures. Do we really stop to consider how, for example, Africans feel about East Indians?

    3] It is not a personal thing between two specific races. We become aware of- and fear- that which appears different. It is a general thing, which becomes more pronounced the more obvious the difference. We don't have an obvious racist attitude towards, say Italians (or any other white culture), because frankly, it is difficult to distinguish them. When you hear of a shooting on the news, the primary piece of identifying information is the colour of the person. We hear that the shooter is black, or white. We do NOT hear that he is Italian or Irish.

    "Here in Brasil, most middleclass families have a maid, most often, colored."

    This is not an individual decision, it is institutionalized. If 90 percent of the candidates for housekeeping are, in fact, black, there's a 90% chance that you will end up with a black maid, no matter how you feel about it.

    I'm not saying your conclusion is wrong, I do believe you are correct, it's just not as simple or (pardon the pun) as black and white as that.
  20. Feb 19, 2005 #19
    :cry: Can anyone ask 42 to read my previous post? Bin Laden is leaving on a helicopter!!
  21. Feb 19, 2005 #20
    Umm, no. Could you enlighten me?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook