THE EXPERIENCE OF DISCRIMINATION

THE EXPERIENCE OF DISCRIMINATION

The experience of discrimination

Order Description

Imagine you are in heaven, and the angel in front of you says: “You are going to be born to the world. In America. But guess what? We give you choices. There are some groups in America that are in disadvantaged positions… for example, Blacks. So you can choose to be born White, or you can choose to be born Black with cash compensation. The cash will be deposited to your bank account when you are born.”

Question: If you choose to be born Black in America, how much compensation do you think is reasonable? The more specific the better.

Chapter 11
*
The Experience of
Discrimination
Oh, is there still racism?
-ANONYMOUS STUDENT, ON HEARING THAT A COURSE
ON RACISM WAS BEING OFFERED ON HER CAMPUS,
QUOTED IN TATUM (1997, P. 3)
I don’t think White people, generally, undmtand the
full meaning of racist discriminatory behaviors directed
toward Americans of African descent. They seen1 to see
each act of discrimination or any act of violence as an
“isolated” event. As a result, most White Americans cannot
understand the strong reaction n1anifested by Blacks when such
events occur. They feel that Blacks tend to “overreact.” They
forget that in most cases, we live lives of quiet desperation
generated by a litany of daily large and small events that,
whether or not by design, remind us of our “place”
in American society.
-ANONYMOUS BLACK PROFESSOR, QUOTED IN FEAGIN
AND SIKES (1994, PP. 23-24, EMPHASIS IN ORIGINAL)
Chapter Outline
Social Stigma
What Defines a Stigmatized
Group?
Stigma by Association
Tokenism
418
Responses to Prejudice and
Discrimination
Attributional Ambiguity
personaJ/Group Discrimination
Discrepancy
Consequences of Prejudice to the
Target
Stereotype Threat
Vulnerability to Stress
Threats to Self-Esteem
Coping with Discrimination
Psychological Disengagement and
Disidentification
THE EXPERIENCE OF DISCRIMINATION 419
Behavioral Compensation
Summary
Suggested Readings
Key Terms
Questions for Review and Discussion
As we saw in Chapter 6, many White Americans think prejudice is more or
less a thing of the past. It is certainly true that more blatant fonlLS of prejudice
have declined in the United States, because of both legislative and social changes.
It is also true, however, that the existence of prejudice and discrimination can simply
be iuvisible to many members of the majority group. It is sometiules difficult
for the majority group to accept that, for many people, prejudice and discrimination
are a “lived experience” (Feagin & Sikes, 1994, p. 15) and are not inconsequential
beliefs and actions that can siulply be overlooked while “getting on with
one’s life.” Instead, for members of stereotyped groups, these experiences are
woven iuto the fabric of their lives. Much of this book has focused on theories about
and research on prejudiced people. In this chapter, we tell the story of prejudice and
discrimination from the poiut of view of those lived experiences, focusiug on the social
psychological research that describes and explains them.
As we have seen in earlier chapters, prejudice and discrimination can take
many fonns, depending on the actor, the situation, and the historical time period
in which a person lives. These factors similarly affect those who experience prejudice,
creating a dynamic interchange between those who treat others unfairly and
those who are the recipients of this injustice (Dovidio, Major, & Crocker, 2000).
This chapter focuses on the consequences of this exchange as they affect every
aspect of the stigmatized person’s life, including their academic and economic
achievement and their physical and mental well-beiug.
SOCIAL STIGMA
To fully understand what it is like to experience discrimination, it is important to
know what factors set others apart from the dominant group, increasing the likelihood
that they will be discriminated against. Recall from Chapter 1 our discussion
of group privilege. This privilege is defined as membership in the dominant
group, a status that is seen as nonnal and natural and is usually taken for granted
(A. Johnson, 2006). Dominant group membership is sometimes referred to as
majority group membership, but this is somewhat of a misnomer. Privileged status
often comes from being in the majority; however, it is not defined simply by
420 CHAPTER 11
a group’s numerical advantage. For example, the British rule of India lasted more
than 300 years; during that time, Indians faced severe racial discrimination from the
British even though the Indians greatly outnumbered the British (Dirks, 2001),
Similarly, although Blacks in South Africa outnumber Whites four to one, until
1994 Blacks were subjected to apartheid laws that enforced their segregation
from Whites, governed their social life, and limited their employment options
(Beck, 2000), The vestiges of apartheid continue to affect Blacks in South Africa.
Privileged status, then, is defined less by a group’s numbers and more by its power
and influence. We begin our discussion by outlining the factors that delineate a
group’s privileged or disadvantaged status.
What Defines a Stigmatized Group?

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