Paper on the Article Does an Accent Trigger Racial Abuse

Paper on the Article Does an Accent Trigger Racial Abuse

In all multi-cultural societies variations in race can cause confrontation. This stems from prejudice. The word 'prejudice' derives from the Latin word pre-judicium, literally meaning 'pre-judgment'. In Rome, governing laws differed between the patricians (the upper-class) and the plebeians (the lower-classes) The 'pre-judgment' was a judicial examination, held prior to the real trial, to determine first the social status of litigants. This often meant that long before the actual trial the outcome was established by the class-based "prejudice". (Young, 1946).

The meaning of prejudice today is still closely tied with its' roman root. Without examining a person on his or her own merit, we have already adopted a negative attitude that implies a judgment. In modern times prejudice can be defined as a mixture of beliefs and feelings that predisposes people to respond negatively to members of a particular race based on unreliable, possibly distorted, stereotyped images of them. For centuries conflicts have taken place among three main races, Caucasian, Asian, and African Americans. It is this practice of classifying people according to some socially defined physical characteristics, and then to assume that biology determines other factors, which must be rejected for a number of reasons (Spoonley,1993). Physical difference is an obvious and easily employed means of classifying people, and for this reason, the use of ‘race’ will undoubtedly continue. It is often assumed that those who share the same phenotype will act or behave in a particular way. In the situation in question Hock Lee experiences racial prejudice in New Zealand as people have preconceived or stereotypical ideas of how Asians drive. In spite of views of some individuals it is not a natural condition it is not something we as humans just do it is conditioned. The man driving the car may have had a bad previous experience with an Asian driver which would give him the notion for these prearranged ideas and relate all people of that race to behave in that way.

The tendency to view a particular race as jovial, mean, unintelligent, intelligent or in Hock Lees case, a bad driver is common in New Zealand, as in other western societies. Stereotypes give us a preconceived notion of how people of a certain group are going to act before we have experienced it firsthand. Basically, stereotypes are generalisations. Stereotyping may also be seen to be bigoted behavior, and also discriminatory, however "recent research suggests that such statements may stem from a very natural cognitive process called the `out-group homogeneity effect`" (Quattrone 1986 - Gross et al 1999). Whereby people tend to perceive members of an out-group as highly similar to each other, (stereotype), but they tend to view all manner of individual differences among members of their own group (the in-group differentiation hypothesis), as these are all consequences of the acts of categorisation. Conflict between groups can be explained with social and psychological factors. What may start as economic competition can turn into psychological prejudice. Such prejudice perpetuates from generation to generation.

The classic study of prejudice was that conducted by Muzafer Serif et al in 1962. His main contribution is known as Realistic Conflict Theory, and accounts for group conflict, negative prejudices, and stereotypes as being the result of competition between groups for desired resources. Sherif validated his theory in one his most famous experiments, "The Robber's Cave".

In this field experiment, 22 white, fifth grade 11-year-old boys with average-to-good school records, and above average intelligence were sent to a special remote summer camp in Oklahoma, Robbers Cave State Park. The remoteness of the part ensured that the study remained free from external influences and that the true nature of conflict and prejudice could be studied. None of the boys knew each other prior to the study. The researchers randomly divided the boys into two different groups, and assigned them cabins far apart from each other. During this first phase, the groups did not know of the other group's existence. The boys developed an attachment to their groups throughout the first week of the camp by doing various activities together like hiking, swimming, etc. The boys chose names for their groups, The Eagles and The Rattlers. At this point, the next part of the study began. Sherif set up a four-day series of competitions between the groups, and promised trophies, medals, and camping knives to the winners. As the competition progressed, prejudice began to become apparent between the two groups. At first, this prejudice was only verbally expressed, such as taunting or name-calling. As the competition wore on, this expression took a more direct route. The groups became so aggressive with each other that the researchers had to physically separate them. During the subsequent two-day cooling off period, the boys listed features of the two groups. The boys tended to characterize their own in-group in very favourable terms, and the other out-group in very unfavourable terms.

The results from the experiment indicates two things. As Tajfel believes, social- catergorisation (the mere existence of two separate groups) may have been sufficient enough to create conflict. This point made from the study provides clear evidence that Hock Lee may have experienced this racial incident as people of one race or group is enough to cause social conflict.

This perception is based upon the ignorance by the indigenous observer of the environment from which the new citizen came. The perception made by the driver of the vehicle assumes that the driving ability is inherently race based.


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