The Psychology of Prejudice

By Mark P. Zanna; James M. Olson | Go to book overview

2
On the Functions of Stereotypes and Prejudice

Mark Snyder Peter Miene University of Minnesota

In January 1991, students and faculty at the University of Minnesota returned from their holiday break to begin the winter term with a rare event--a university- wide convocation. By order of the president of the university, all classes were canceled, and all members of the university community were invited to attend this convocation. In addition, all faculty received materials to help them lead discussions on their first day of class. The subject of this convocation and of the classroom discussions? Racism on campus. A number of shocking racial incidents had taken place on campus during the preceding few months, including threatening and harassing phone calls made to students of color, as well as the appearance of extremely offensive and threatening graffiti messages in several locations around campus.

Sad to say, incidents such as these are far from isolated on college campuses these days. For, it isn't just this university that has been visited by racism; the University of Michigan and many other schools have also been the sites of numerous racial incidents in recent years. Moreover, acts of overt racism have not been restricted to institutions of higher learning, although their goal of fostering an understanding of cultural diversity makes these incidents all the more shocking when they occur in academic settings. Racial tensions have been running high in many locations around the country, even prior to the events in Los Angeles in the wake of the acquittal of the four White police on trial for the beating of a Black motorist, Rodney King. Consider, too, the situation in Dubuque, Iowa. Unlike Los Angeles, where minorities represent 35% of the total population, Dubuque is a city so predominantly White that Blacks make up a minority of the membership of the local NAACP chapter. Dubuque city officials proposed a financial incentive package to attract minority families to the area,

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