Prejudice

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The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices...to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill...and suspicion can destroy...and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own -- for the children and the children yet unborn. ~ Rod Serling

Prejudice is prejudgment, or forming an opinion before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case. The word is often used to refer to preconceived, usually unfavorable, judgments toward people or a person because of gender, political opinion, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, language, nationality, or other personal characteristics. In this case, it refers to a positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their perceived group membership.

Quotes[edit]

Times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. ~ Anthony Kennedy
  • Prejudice and self-sufficiency naturally proceed from inexperience of the world, and ignorance of mankind.
  • He hears but half who hears one party only.
    • Æschylus, Eum, 428; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 631.
  • If a person is capable of rectifying his erroneous judgments in the light of new evidence he is not prejudiced. Prejudgments become prejudices only if they are reversible when exposed to new knowledge. A prejudice, unlike a simple misconception, is actively resistant to all evidence that would unseat it. We tend to grow emotional when a prejudice is threatened with contradiction. Thus the difference between ordinary prejudgments and prejudice is that one can discuss and rectify a prejudgment without emotional resistance.
    • Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1954), p. 9.
  • The prejudices of ignorance are more easily removed than the prejudices of interest; the first are blindly adopted; the second wilfully preferred.
    • George Bancroft, Literary and Historical Miscellanies (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1855), "The Office of the People in Art, Government, and Religion", p. 430.
  • The confirmed prejudices of a thoughtful life are as hard to change as the confirmed habits of an indolent life; and as some must trifle away age because they have trifled away youth, others must labour on in a maze of error, because they have wandered there too long to find their way out.
  • The great obstacle to progress is prejudice
    • Christian Nestell Bovee, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought (Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1862), Volume II, p. 105.
  • Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.
  • Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit, and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.
    • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).
  • Self-love is a medium of a peculiar kind:[…] it magnifies everything which is amiss in others, at the same time that it lessens everything amiss in ourselves.
    Anger also, or hatred, may be considered as another false medium of viewing things, which always represents characters and actions much worse than they really are. Ill-will not only never speaks, but never thinks well of the person towards whom it is exercised. Thus in cases of offence and enmity, the whole character and behaviour is considered with an eye to that particular part which has offended us, and the whole man appears monstrous, without anything right or human in him.
    • Joseph Butler, Fifteen Sermons (1729), Sermon IX: "Upon Forgiveness of Injuries". London: Thomas Tegg, 1841, p. 96.
  • It is not to be conceived how many people, capable of reasoning, if they would, live and die in a thousand errors from laziness; they will rather adopt the prejudices of others, than give themselves the trouble of forming opinions of their own.
  • Our prejudices are our mistresses; reason is at best our wife, very often heard indeed, but seldom minded.
  • We are all citizens of one world, we are all of one blood. To hate a man because he was born in another country, because he speaks a different language, or because he takes a different view on this subject or that, is a great folly. Desist, I implore you, for we are all equally human…. Let us have but one end in view, the welfare of humanity.
    • Attributed to John Amos Comenius; reported in Laurence J. Peter, Peter's Quotations (1977), p. 76. This passage was used by Adlai E. Stevenson on his Christmas card in 1961.
  • As in political, so in literary action a man wins friends for himself mostly by the passion of his prejudices and by the consistent narrowness of his outlook.
  • Can science ever be immune from experiments conceived out of prejudices and stereotypes, conscious or not? (Which is not to suggest that it cannot in discrete areas identify and locate verifiable phenemonena in nature.) I await the study that says lesbians have a region of the hypothalamus that resembles straight men and I would not be surprised if, at this very moment, some scientist somewhere is studying brains of deceased Asians to see if they have an enlarged "math region" of the brain.
  • L'ignorance est moins éloignée de la vérité que la préjugé.
    • Ignorance is less far from truth than prejudice.
    • Denis Diderot, "Letter on the Deaf and Dumb" ("Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets", 1751), in Œuvres de Denis Diderot (Paris: A. Belin, 1818), Vol. I, p. 361.
  • As those who believe in the visibility of ghosts can easily see them, so it is always easy to see repulsive qualities in those we despise and hate.
    • Frederick Douglass, "The Color Line", The North American Review, Vol. 132 (June 1, 1881), p. 567.
  • Wenige sind imstande, von den Vorurteilen der Umgebung abweichende Meinungen gelassen auszusprechen; die Meisten sind sogar unfähig, überhaupt zu solchen Meinungen zu gelangen.
    • Few people are capable of expressing calmly opinions that differ from the prejudices of their environment; most are even incapable of forming such opinions.
    • Albert Einstein, "Neun Aphorismen" ("Nine Aphorisms"), in Essays Presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (London: East and West Library, 1954), p. 26.
  • They told me I was not going on with any name as Jewish as Feldman. I don't think there's any lessening of prejudice today. There's just more politeness about where and how it happens now. I think it's going to be one of the things to render the downfall of homo sapiens. Did you know I was the first guy who ever used a mixed orchestra of blacks and whites on radio or television? I was threatened, and they tried to stamp me out for that.
  • Les esprits dont la mission est de détruire les préjugés, sont précisément ceux qui ont la plus de préjugés, et qui les professent avec le plus d'aveuglement.
    • The minds whose mission is to destroy prejudices are precisely those who have the most prejudices and profess them most blindly.
    • Delphine de Girardin, "Lettre IX" (24 May 1837), in Lettres Parisiennes (Paris: Charpentier, 1843), p. 107.
  • Chi non esce dal suo paese, vive pieno di pregiudizi.
    • He who never leaves his country is full of prejudices.
    • Carlo Goldoni, Pamela (c. 1750), I, 14.
  • There is […] no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice.
    • William Hazlitt, The Round Table (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable and Co., 1817), Vol. I, "On the Tendency of Sects", p. 142.
  • Prejudice is the child of ignorance.
    • William Hazlitt, Sketches and Essays (London: John Templeman, 1839), "On Prejudice", p. 83.
  • Prejudice is never easy unless it can pass itself off for reason.
    • William Hazlitt, Sketches and Essays (London: John Templeman, 1839), "On Prejudice", p. 90.
  • Both social and biosocial factors are necessary to interpret crosscultural studies, with the general proviso that one's research interest determines which elements, in what combinations, are significant for the provision of understanding.
    • Gilbert Herdt, "Bisexuality and the Causes of Homosexuality: The Case of the Sambia"
  • Deep-seated preferences cannot be argued about—you cannot argue a man into liking a glass of beer—and, therefore, when differences are sufficiently far-reaching, we try to kill the other man rather than let him have his way. But that is perfectly consistent with admitting that, as far as appears, his grounds are just as good as ours.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., "Natural Law", Harvard Law Review, Vol. 32 (1918), p. 40; reprinted in Collected Legal Papers (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1921), p. 312
  • Francis Bacon long ago called attention to the play of predispositions or prejudices in man's life when he wrote of four "Idols," or types of false opinion, that man must avoid if he wishes to attain sound judgements. ...The idols of the theater are those errors or false opinions imbedded in an uncritically accepted tradition. Thus, pride of race, exaggerated nationalism, or perverted patriotism may become the essential traditions of a culture; and in some communities children grow up in a climate of social snobbery, narrow sectarianism in religion, and strict partisanism in politics.
    Bacon believed that "the power of reason" gave man the ability to rise above prejudice.
    • H. Gordon Hullfish, Philip G. Smith, Reflective Thinking: The Method of Education (1961)
  • It is difficult for an individual to decide—as he might decide some morning, say, not to shave—to be rational (reasonable) rather than to remain prejudiced. Prejudices are rooted in such deep feelings that it does not occur to us to question them. ...on matters that involve his deeply held prejudices he is not likely to struggle. ...since he is unaware of a problem, he confronts no tension or conflict. He feels no need to struggle.
    ...The cultural environment which gives rise to prejudices does not usually provide the conditions that call them into question. The cultural mind... is often closed; it may always be closed on specific beliefs.
    • H. Gordon Hullfish, Philip G. Smith, Reflective Thinking: The Method of Education (1961)
  • Any pattern of belief which is formed as a result of an unthinking or conditioning process may be called prejudice. All such beliefs are unreasoned; not all of them, however, are unreasonable. ...Man sometimes holds right beliefs for the wrong reasons; sometimes he holds them for no reason at all.
    • H. Gordon Hullfish, Philip G. Smith, Reflective Thinking: The Method of Education (1961)
  • Much of prejudice is unconscious. What appears on the surface is an unidentified aversion, which is then justified in some rational way.
    • Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World (2014), "Harriet Burden: Notebook C". London: Sceptre, 2014, p. 32
  • Our minds […] grow in spots; and like grease-spots, the spots spread. But we let them spread as little as possible: we keep unaltered as much of our old knowledge, as many of our old prejudices and beliefs, as we can. We patch and tinker more than we renew. The novelty soaks in; it stains the ancient mass; but it is also tinged by what absorbs it.
    • William James, Pragmatism (New York: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1907), Lecture V: "Pragmatism and Common Sense", pp. 168–169.
  • Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific. They did not presume to have this insight. They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.
  • The tendency of the casual mind is to pick out or stumble upon a sample which supports or defies its prejudices, and then to make it the representative of a whole class.
    • Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), Ch. X: "The Detection of Stereotypes", p. 151.
  • Knowledge humanizes mankind, and reason inclines to mildness, but prejudices eradicate every tender disposition.
  • Tolerant people are the happiest, so why not get rid of prejudices that hold you back?
  • Ian Chesterton: They're afraid of you because you're different from them. So whatever you do, it doesn't matter.
  • How immense to us appear the sins we have not committed.
    • Madame Necker; reported in Louis Klopsch, ed., Many Thoughts of Many Minds: A Treasury of Quotations From the Literature of Every Land and Every Age (1896), p. 229.
  • Remember, when the judgment's weak, the prejudice is strong.
  • Prejudice is not a failing peculiar to one race, it can and does exist in people of every race and ethnic background. It takes individual effort to root it out of one’s heart. In my case my father and mother saw that it never got a start. I shall be forever grateful to them.
  • Sex prejudice is so ingrained in our society that many who practice it are simply unaware that they are hurting women. It is the last socially acceptable prejudice.
    • Bernice Sandler, testimony (June 19, 1970), "Discrimination Against Women", hearings before the special subcommittee on education of the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, 91st Congress, 2d session, part 1, p. 302 (1970). She was chairman of the Action Committee for Federal Contract Compliance in Education of the Women's Equity Action League.
  • Consider: if you incorporate those tropical countries with the Republic of the United States, you will have to incorporate their people too.
    • Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate on the annexation of San Domingo (January 11, 1871), The Congressional Globe, vol. 43, p. 26.
  • Are you tough enough to face one of the uglier stains upon the fabric of our democracy, prejudice? It’s the basic root of most evil. It’s a part of the sickness of man. And it’s a part of man’s admission, his constant sick admission, that to exist he must find a scapegoat. To explain away his own deficiencies, he must try to find someone who he believes more deficient. If you find yourself thinking words like “Nigger”, or “Kike”, or “Polock”, or “Wop”, or “Bohunk”, or “Sheenie”, or “Dago”, consign them to the lexicon of race-haters who aren’t fit to breathe the same air as you are. Make your judgment of your fellow-man on what he says and what he believes and the way he acts. Be tough enough, please, to live with prejudice and give battle to it. It warps, it poisons, it distorts and it is self-destructive. It has fallout worse than a bomb … and worst of all it cheapens and demeans anyone who permits himself the luxury of hating.
  • To all intents and purposes, he who will not open his eyes, is for the present as blind as he that cannot.
    • Robert South, Thirty Six Sermons (Dublin: Joseph Leathly, 1720), Sermon VI, p. 78.
  • We all decry prejudice, yet are all prejudiced. We see how habits, and interests, and likings, mould the theories of those around us; yet forget that our owh theories are similarly moulded.
    • Herbert Spencer, Social Statics (London: John Chapman, 1851), Ch. XVII: "The Rights of Children", p. 176.
  • When we destroy an old prejudice, we have need of a new virtue.
  • You reason well, and your wit is bold, but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are, that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplated by men's eyes, because they know, or think they know, some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all, and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain. But yet we see around us every day the growth of new beliefs, which think themselves new, and which are yet but the old, which pretend to be young, like the fine ladies at the opera.
  • Dans la même âme peuvent vivre ensemble les préjugés les plus durs et une bonté naturelle.
    • In the same mind there may exist together the harshest prejudices and a natural kindliness of feeling.
    • Rodolphe Töpffer, The Parsonage (Le Presbytère, 1832). London: Simms and McIntyre, 1848, Vol. I, p. 38.
  • We are chameleons, and our partialities and prejudices change places with an easy and blessed facility, and we are soon wonted to the change and happy in it.
    • Mark Twain, "Spelling and Pictures" (September 18, 1906), in Mark Twain's Speeches (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1910), p. 205.
  • Les préjugés, ami, sont les rois du vulgaire.
    • Prejudices, friend, are the kings of the common people.
    • Voltaire, Mahomet (1741), Act II, sc. IV.
  • Les préjugés sont la raison des sots.
    • Prejudices are the reason of fools.
    • Voltaire, La Religion Naturelle: Poëme (Geneva, 1756), p. 23.
  • Husserl has shown that man's prejudices go a great deal deeper than his intellect or his emotions. Consciousness itself is 'prejudiced' — that is to say, intentional.
    • Colin Wilson in Introduction to the New Existentialism, p. 54.
  • Men, in general, seem to employ their reason to justify prejudices, which they have imbibed, they can scarcely trace how, rather than to root them out. The mind must be strong that resolutely forms its own principles; for a kind of intellectual cowardice prevails which makes many men shrink from the task, or only do it by halves.

See also[edit]

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