The terms “racism,” “stereotyping,” and “prejudice” are often used interchangeably. However, each of these words have entirely different meanings although they are all somewhat related. All three of these terms involve the poor treatment of specific groups or types of people. The term “racism” originated in the 1930s, and it referred to the idea that certain types of people are determined by their genetic makeup. Specific types of genetic makeup allow people to be further categorized into separate “races.” Racism demonstrates the principle that certain races are more superior than others, allowing certain individuals to perceive some groups of people as inferior to them. Race scholars have defined racism as something that “creates or reproduces structures of domination based on essentialist categories of race.” Therefore, when individuals portray racism by using derogatory language, for example, they are reproducing unfair hierarchies of racial categories.
Prejudice is related to the specific attitudes that an individual may have regarding different groups of people. For example, a person could be prejudiced toward others in a negative manner or in a positive manner. The most common connotation of prejudice is negative, such as how an individual may have an incorrect and unjustified attitude about another person based solely on their membership in a certain social group. In this discussion, it can be understood as a negative attitude toward someone based on their race. Although prejudice involves biased thoughts about certain groups of people, it does not require that an individual act on them. In contrast, if one is acting on their prejudice, it would be categorized as discrimination. Specifically, discrimination involves actions or behaviors towards an individual based solely on their race, sex, social class etc.
Breaking it down even further, stereotyping involves making simplified assumptions about how specific groups of people will be. In terms of race, an example would be if an individual believes that all Asian people are good at math. Although this may be considered a “positive” stereotype, it is still an oversimplified assumption about an extremely large group of people. Stereotypes are not always true, and they are often portray certain types of people in a negative manner.