Causes of Prejudice

7 July 2016

Prejudice is an opinion that is not based on actual evidence or experience. In “Causes of Prejudice,” Vincent Parillo describes the psychological and sociological reasons of prejudice. Among these causes, frustration is defined to produce a prejudicial attitude towards others. Parillo explains in his work that throughout history, minority groups have been used as scapegoats to take the blame for certain events. He clarifies that scapegoating is the act of blaming others for an incident that is not their fault. This idea is also visible in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, in the part where a lawyer named Atticus tries to prove an African American innocent who has been falsely charged with raping a white woman. Therefore, both Parillo’s “Causes of Prejudice” and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird support that frustration is a cause of prejudice because of an increase in aggression towards a scapegoat.

To begin with, frustration is caused by relative deprivation, which is the lack of resources in an individual’s environment when compared to others. This results in aggression towards a scapegoat in order to relieve this tension. “Frustrated people may easily strike out against the perceived cause of their frustration. However, this reaction may not be possible because the true source of the frustration is often too nebulous to be identified or too powerful to act against” (Parillo 583).

Causes of Prejudice Essay Example

His view is also seen in To Kill a Mockingbird, when Mayella Ewell claims Tom Robinson has raped her. Atticus tries to prove to the jury that Tom Robinson in fact did not rape Mayella and that she, a white woman, kissed Tom, a black man. Mayella is an Ewell; a very poor family in the town of Maycomb and therefore she has to live through tough conditions which include living behind the garbage dump, barely having any money to support her dad and seven siblings, as well as being beaten by her own father. Most importantly, she is frustrated that she always feels dissatisfied with her life since she was never able to experience any happiness by being isolated from the rest of the world. Therefore, she tries to at least kiss a black man to feel some sense of happiness. When she realizes it is condemned by society, her frustration increases partly because society is not allowing her to have a small amount of happiness, and so she shows her aggression by blaming Tom Robinson for raping her.

In addition, aggression resulted from frustration is pinpointed towards scapegoats because they share similar characteristics of being vulnerable to blame. “The group must be (1) highly visible in physical appearance or observable customs and ac¬tions; (2) not strong enough to strike back; (3) situated within easy access of the dominant group . . .” (Parillo 584). To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in southern Alabama in the 1930’s. This was the time period where prejudice against African Americans was present. Segregation was present because having white skin was seen to be better than having black skin.

This simple difference in skin color resulted in an unfair treatment of African Americans. Separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, churches, and schools resulted for African Americans and whites. Also, since whites felt that the blacks were inferior to them, they tended to assume all blacks were unintelligent. When Mayella copes with her frustration of being isolated from the rest of the world by blaming Tom Robinson, the court looks at his skin color instead of the evidence given for this case. Even though Atticus provides plenty of evidence that proves that it was impossible for Tom to commit the rape of Mayella, Tom is still found guilty because even if Mayella is part of the lower class of Maycomb, she is still a white woman, making her superior to Tom Robinson.

It is evident that frustration plays an important role in determining prejudicial attitudes. Both the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and “Causes of Prejudice” by Vincent Parillo, agree that frustration is caused by relative deprivation and when aggression forms, the blame is placed on scapegoats. These scapegoats share similar characteristics which allow them to be vulnerable to the blame that falls upon them.

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