Roots of prejudice

The Equal Opportunities Handbook  argues that each form of prejudice and judgement has common roots, and by exposing and understanding those roots, prejudice and the resulting discrimination becomes more understandable and easier to address on a personal level. This is also helpful when facilitating and managing the conflicts that happen within and between communities. The main ‘roots’ are outlined below with some questions to consider that may help to get you thinking, although they are not intended to tackle the complex roots of inequality overnight!

When exploring some of these issues it’s really important that we are honest with ourselves and that we remember that some attitudes are almost unconscious and sometimes we don’t even know that we are excluding or discriminating.  Indeed, sometimes the simple fact of omission and/or lack of recognition can be all it takes to gain a new awareness.  For example,

  • people have a tendency to forget that many disabilities are ‘hidden’
  • by always talking about couples as ‘he and she’ we are setting the norm for relationships being heterosexual

Anyone and everyone will have prejudices, including people from marginalised and discriminated groups. This is important to recognise.


The more we understand why people do the things they do, believe what they believe, speak and dress in certain ways, follow certain traditions, behave in certain ways, the less we are likely to fill in the gaps with our own interpretation and misinformation and stereotypes. It is also often the case that ignorance can breed fear of difference, of the unknown and arouse suspicion!

What are some of the things that people might say about different groups in the area you work in?

What are the implications?

What could you do to challenge these views?

What are the gaps in your knowledge about these different groups?

Would it be helpful to fill those gaps?

Can you think of a time when you learned something that was surprising or made you realise that you had made some assumptions about someone or a groups of people?



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