Why Does Discrimination Happen?

Elaine’s Block

March 16, 2020

Discrimination happens everywhere – in the workplace, at school, and in our communities. It take can on many forms like sexism, racism, ageism, just to name a few. But why do we discriminate? Perhaps if we take a look at some of the reasons why, we can better understand why others do it, how we can avoid discriminating ourselves, and how we can work towards a society with less discrimination. 

Naturally, we categorize. 

Our brains are structured in a way to discern and group items and people into specific categories, and discrimination is a prime example. We naturally compare and contrast similarities and differences to find context for these ideas. 

Competition for resources

Some attribute discrimination to the competition for resources. When it comes to finding resources for survival, there can be an “us” versus “them” mentality about the people within your group and outside of your group. (This is linked to the categorizing idea as well) 

Societal Conformity and Peer Pressure  

Our prejudices are influenced and enforced by those around us – our families, friends, and community. It is also influenced by society around you and the media. These influences shape the way we see the world and think about other groups of people. 

So what can we do about this? Here’s some food for thought:

Learn more about one another 

Sometimes discrimination comes from misunderstanding. Cultural norms look different for people, and sometimes a person’s actions reflect their culture. But to someone who doesn’t understand where they’re coming from, they might react negatively to that person. Getting to know individuals on a personal basis instead of generalizing a group of people can help decrease discrimination and stereotyping. 

Meet new people

Getting out and doing different activities- like volunteering, doing extra-curricular activities, etc, can help you meet new people of different groups. 

Check yourself

Before you react to a situation with perhaps a discriminatory attitude, double check to make sure you aren’t being insensitive to others and their differences. Reevaluate what you hear from friends, family, and the media to make sure that you aren’t just going along with perpetuated stereotypes that are promoted by those around you. Sometimes we discriminate without even realizing it. 

By taking a look at the reasons why we discriminate, we can better understand where it comes from. Hopefully we can then work to find more solutions and make the world a better place. 


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