Prejudice is making a judgment about a situation or a person without having sufficient information upon which to make that judgment.
People are not born prejudiced, so the environment in which people are raised is critical to the creation of prejudice. Governments or political movements with power over the sources of communication are in powerful positions to introduce prejudice which advances their own objectives.
Prejudice is an attitude of mind which often leads on to acts of discrimination. For example, people are:
- excluded from participating in activities or types of work;
- called names and accused of actions for which they have not been responsible;
- open to being ignored or attacked by others;
- required to work for less reward than others;
- targeted for desecration of their premises, places of worship or burial grounds.
It is relatively easy to introduce prejudice as part of a process of education of young people who may not yet have developed the ability to weigh up the evidence and to come to their own judgments. So it was regarded as a critical policy for the National Socialist Party of Germany when they came to power in 1933 to introduce their view of the world into the school curriculum .
The active distribution of prejudice is often called propaganda. The Nazi regime were particularly active in the use of propaganda.
Joseph Goebbels, the chief of the Nazi propoganda effort said in 1933:
"It is not enough for people to be more or less reconciled to our regime, to be persuaded to adopt a neutral attitude towards us; rather we want to work on people until they have capitulated to us, until they grasp ideologically that what is happening in Germany today not only must be accepted but also can be accepted."
It was the appalling consequences of prejudice, discrimination and mass murder from the Nazi regime that led the governments of the world to formulate the worldwide concept of Human Rights which we will go on to consider in more depth in the rest of this section.