Prejudice in Society

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Prejudice in Society

India's Untouchables...183
Shepard, Matthew...193

Many types of prejudice (a negative attitude towards others based on a prejudgment about those individuals with no prior knowledge or experience) exist in the world, the most common being ethnic, racial, religious. Two that do not fall into these most common categories are social class prejudice and prejudice against persons of different sexual orientation.

Categories of people based on their wealth and social standing are known as social classes. A group of people who share a similar social and economic status belong to a particular social class. Class differences normally involve inequalities and prejudices between members of different groups. In societies that are highly stratified (social classes arranged in an order based on their perceived degree of importance), chances for education, jobs, and economic advancement are influenced by what class a person is born into.

Class levels in some countries are called castes. Caste systems based on family origins and the type of work one does are prevalent in many Asian and African countries. Prejudice and discrimination (treating some people differently than others or favoring one social group over another based on prejudices) against persons belonging to lower caste levels is common. Approximately one in every twenty-five people of the world is a victim of caste discrimination. That statistic means about 250 to 300 million—179 million in India alone—worldwide suffer from caste discrimination. India is an example of a country with rigid class levels or castes. Even though the caste system is legally banned, it nevertheless continues to dominate Indian society. The first excerpt, "Untouchable," describes discrimination that a class of people in India called the Untouchables must live with every day.

Although not members of any specific social class, those persons whose sexual orientation differs from male-female attraction face social prejudice worldwide. Those who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are sexually attracted to the same sex as themselves. Gay refers to males who are sexually attracted to other males. Lesbian refers to females who are sexually attracted to other females. Bisexual persons are attracted to both same sex and people of the opposite sex. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are a diverse group of people who do not belong to a particular social class, but are found in all social classes and throughout the world. Although they live with the hope of acceptance, understanding, love, and happiness, for centuries they have been subjected to severe prejudice, discrimination, oppression, and violence. At the start of the twenty-first century in the United States, a large network of gay, lesbian, and bisexual organizations lent support, attempted to educate the general public, and lessened prejudice against those with same-sex orientation.

Matthew Shepard, a twenty-one-year-old gay male living in Wyoming, was brutally tortured and left to die because he was gay. The second excerpt, "Dennis Shepard's Statements to the Court," comes from a statement to the jury that convicted one of Matthew's assailants. The statement by Dennis Shepard, Matthew's father, reveals the love a father has for his son and how hate-based, prejudice-filled violence still existed in America in the late twentieth century.