Prejudice as Part of Our Nature

Dr. Thomas Voigt
Aurora, IL

There is a part of our socialization that is naturally skeptical of new people and experiences, and to sometimes be afraid of them. We must acknowledge these concerns so that they do not become entrenched in our minds as a system of fearing others or becoming prejudiced against others. In the absence of understanding and controlling our fears or prejudices we can be led astray by those whose prejudices have damaging, and sometimes fatal consequences. So, it is self-protective to understand our prejudices and transform them into unbiased beliefs and social actions toward understanding, acceptance, and justice.


“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.” ― Toni Morrison

Definitions of Prejudice

  1. “Perhaps the briefest of all definitions of prejudice is: thinking ill of others without sufficient warrant.³ “ ³D.Strachey (Ed.). The Letters of the Earl of Chesterfield to his Son. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1925, Vol. 1, 26. (A sufficient warrant is a warrant based in fact. A judgement is unwarranted when it lacks a basis in fact.)
  2. Prejudice - “unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.”
  3. “Prejudice and discrimination are often confused, but the basic difference between them is this: prejudice is the attitude, while discrimination is the behavior. More specifically, racial and ethnic prejudice refers to a set of negative attitudes, beliefs, and judgments about whole categories of people, and about individual members of those categories, because of their perceived race and/or ethnicity. A closely related concept is racism, or the belief that certain racial or ethnic groups are inferior to one’s own.”
  4. “Ethnic prejudice is an antipathy based upon a faulty and inflexible generalization. It may be felt or expressed. It may be directed toward a group as a whole, or toward an individual because he is a member of that group.“ The Nature of Prejudice, 1979, p9, Gordon W. Allport, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company

Why Dr. Voigt Wrote This?

WHY I focus on Understanding Prejudice about “Others”

I have the learning and experiences of 2 very distinct careers, Business and Adult Education. In each of those careers, I retrospectively, became aware that we rarely question WHY we feel as we do toward “others.”

The knowledge acquired by formal education in classrooms and the informal education in Business and Life, is only part of any person’s total knowledge. Unfortunately, a powerful part of our knowledge is rarely questioned. That part is WHY we feel the way we do about “others.” I observed in my global travels that it is a universal phenomenon that some people just accept what persons with strong opinions say about “others.”

That is WHY I focus on understanding prejudices against “others.” We must form our own beliefs based on facts about human nature to inform our views of “others.”

--Tom Voigt