This exercise contains images featuring examples of racism, prejudice and hatred in today’s society. By doing this exercise you will develop your ability to understand the consequences of stereotypes and prejudices. You will also have the chance to reflect on how propaganda affects us today and the need to uphold human rights. You will further develop your understanding of the significance of how we view and treat newcomers in our society.
Prejudices and Stereotypes
As concepts, racism, prejudices and stereotypes are often mixed into everyday life. Stereotypes create a one-sided positive, negative or neutral picture of an entire group of human beings. Prejudices are judgements that originate in positive or negative bias, based on stereotypes, which often lead us to rush into generalised and incorrect conclusions about groups other than our own.
We all have prejudices, but how much the environment we live in is permissive towards these matters a lot. The opinion of the majority can influence the thinking of the individual to a large extent, and the responsibility of politics not to let prejudice influence society is enormous.
Nazi Germany was a good example of a country where those in power spread and promoted prejudices in order to single out, discriminate against and persecute certain groups in society.
On a personal level, prejudice can often be related to self-justification (creating a feeling of belonging to an “us” and of being superior to another perceived group, “them”) or in the hunt for a scapegoat (such as blaming minorities for economic crises).
Racism is a way of thinking which divides human beings into several “races”, commonly in a hierarchy where some “races” are considered superior to others. The idea of “race” is often combined with the idea that each person’s individual characteristics and inclinations are inherited and determined by that person’s race. These ideas and attitudes, which became widespread in many countries from the 19th century onwards, are completely unscientific.
All human beings belong to the same single subspecies (Homo sapiens sapiens) of the species Homo sapiens, and the false idea that human beings can be divided into different “races” has often led to great tragedies. The Nazi persecution and mass murder of so called “inferior races” is one of many such examples throughout history.
Today, prejudice and racism still exist and many people are affected by discrimination or become victims of hate crimes because of their background, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation etc. If people who harbour prejudice and racist ideas are supported by their political surroundings, and if those in power use hatred against minorities, then discrimination can rise to a legal level in some countries even today. It is the responsibility of all responsible, democratic citizens to fight such tendencies in our societies.
Match the posters according to what minorities they are focusing on, and explain what message each poster conveys.
How do you think the anti- and pro-discrimination posters affect their viewers?
5.2.a What personal consequences do you think there might be if somebody belonging to a minority is discriminated against? Think about all aspects of life, for example, work, private life and civil rights.
5.2.b Have you experienced prejudice, racism or discrimination against yourself or someone close to you? If yes, in what way?
5.2.c What can you do to combat prejudice, racism and discrimination today? Try to give at least three different suggestions.