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Chapter 11. Chauvinists Needing Diversit... > Why Do People Harass and Discriminat...

Why Do People Harass and Discriminate Against Others?

People engage in harassment and discrimination for a wide variety of reasons. Some are uncomfortable dealing with anyone who is different from them—someone with a different ethnic, cultural, educational, or demographic background. Others have difficulty with one particular group as a result of a stereotype they hold. Rigid belief in stereotypes blinding people to what someone is really like can be driven by a desire to look down on others. Some people reinforce their self-esteem by looking down on others and then comparing themselves to this disparaged group. Similarly, some people want someone to blame for their own failures and weaknesses—a scapegoat. It feels better to blame someone else for your failures than to believe that you did not have what it takes to succeed. Other people are filled with anger and by having a group to focus their anger on, they can avoid having their anger spill out onto those they work and live without damaging those relationships. Stereotyping, exclusion, and harassment of an out-group also serves to support group solidarity. Social scientists have written of the “need to have enemies” in order to reinforce group solidarity and one’s own identity. Other people think negatively about another group, or all other groups, because they were taught that they are superior or that another group is dangerous. Finally, some people take advantage of commonly held prejudices as a means of attacking someone they wish to attack for political reasons.

Understanding why someone is engaging in stereotyping and harassment will help you to intervene effectively.


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