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Prejudice and Discrimination. Prejudice is a cultural attitude that rests on negative stereotypes about individuals or groups because of their cultural,
religious, racial, or ethnic background. Discrimination is the active denial of desired goals from a category of persons. A category can be based on sex,
ethnicity, nationality, religion, language, or class. More recently, disadvantaged groups now also include those based on gender, age, and physical
Prejudice and discrimination are deeply imbedded at both the individual and societal levels. Attempts to eradicate prejudice and discrimination must thus deal
with prevailing beliefs or ideologies, and social structure.
Prejudice and Discrimination in a Historical Context. As far as historical records show, no society or nation has been immune to prejudice and
discrimination, either as victim or victimizer. Contemporary forms of prejudice and discrimination date back to when European colonizers penetrated and
transformed previously isolated societies and peoples. The more extreme forms of discriminatory practices include genocide, slavery, legislated discrimination
(such as Apartheid), discriminatory immigration laws, and disenfranchisement. Less extreme forms of prejudice and discrimination, but nevertheless
pervasive and oppressive, include social exclusion at the institutional level (such as in schools and hospitals), and the more subtle forms practiced by the
media. Some groups appear to suffer from more persistent forms of discrimination, such as Jews (as in anti-Semitism) and the Roma (a.k.a. Gypsies), regardless
of time and place.
As to the root cause of prejudice and discrimination there appears to be no clear acceptance of any theory of causation. Scholars do agree, however, that
prejudice and discrimination are not universals as something humans are inherently born with. There is ample evidence that prejudice and discrimination are
social constructions. If indeed prejudice and discrimination are inherent in the human condition, we would not be able to account for intermarriage and
assimilation among highly differentiated human groups. There is, moreover, considerable evidence that prejudice is absent in young children (e.g. Allport,
External Bahá'í Relationships. The First Universal Race Congress in London in 1911, provided a formal opportunity for the presentation of Bahá'ís ideas
on the subject of racial unity and fellowship. Unable to come himself, `Abdu'l-Bahá sent a message to the Congress and emphasized the need to appreciate the
beauty of humankind's diversity (Racial Unity: 7). Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the North American Bahá'í community organized Racial Amity
conferences, in conjunction with other groups which strove to eliminate prejudice and discrimination. Bahá'ís in other countries have followed this lead, with
varying degrees of effort and intensity. As a consequence, Bahá'ís have focused the public's attention on the plight of subjugated groups and on the need to
provide remedy through the elimination of prejudice and discrimination.
Bahá'ís are encouraged to apply both courage and wisdom in the eradication of prejudice and discrimination in their relationships to society at large. Although
intermarriage is encouraged, it is a "highly delicate and vital question," in which the people involved "should forget their former and traditional prejudices,
whether religious, racial or social, and commune together on a common basis of equality" (Dawn of a New Civilization: 198).
The following is an article that discusses the religious projudice and persecutions in other countries around the world, including the continuation of the
persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran. Please keep in mind that this article is copyrighted by the publishers of the TwinCities.com
(Pioneer Press) and all rights are reserved by that company.