Communicating Prejudice

Article excerpt

Communicating Prejudice. Michael L. Hecht, ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998. 397 pp. $64 hbk. $24 pbk.

In Communicating Prejudice, Michael Hecht, who is a professor in the Department of Speech Communication at Pennsylvania University, collaborates with several authors to provide a provocative, yet revealing analysis of the practice of communicating prejudice. Hecht says, such communication is all around us.

The chapters coalesce around four central metaphors for prejudice. While prejudice is described in several ways, it is explored, first, as fear of difference and/or as a threat; second, as difference as aversion; third, as difference as competition; and fourth, as prejudice as hierarchy.

Readers are taken on an enlightening journey that begins in Part I of the book (the Introduction) where Hecht discusses the pervasiveness of prejudice. Not a new social issue, Hecht points out, prejudice is intensified by diversity issues which focus on the rejection of and understanding of the dynamics of European dominance, resulting in fear over estimated numbers of underrepresented groups, particularly African Americans. Thus, says Hecht, the myth of the "melting pot" has disappeared from the American consciousness, replaced, in part, by images of group identity and multiculturalism and an increase in hate crimes perpetrated on African Americans and Jews, with even greater attacks on Asian Americans and gay males. Speaking candidly about the presence of prejudice among Christian groups, Hecht traces the recent manifestations of prejudice to the economic situation, as it is suggested conflict over scarce resources leads to intergroup strife.

The core chapters are divided into five sections with contributions by several authors whose research interests range from Afrocentricity, communication, and media to psychology. Part II, which looks at the spheres of prejudice, isms, such as racism, sexism, ageism, classism, homophobia, features a chapter from Molefi Kete Asante, professor of African American Studies at Temple University and the leading proponent of Afrocentric thought. …