Prejudice and Discrimination. Prejudice is a cultural attitude that rests on negative stereotypes about individuals or groups because of their cultural, religious, racial, or ethnic background. Discrimination is the active denial of desired goals from a category of persons. A category can be based on sex, ethnicity, nationality, religion, language, or class. More recently, disadvantaged groups now also include those based on gender, age, and physical disabilities.
Prejudice and discrimination have been prevalent throughout human history. Prejudice has to do with the inflexible and irrational attitudes and opinions held by members of one group about another, while discrimination refers to behaviors directed against another group. Being prejudiced usually means having preconceived beliefs about groups of people or cultural practices. Prejudices can either be positive or negative—both forms are usually preconceived and difficult to alter. The negative form of prejudice can lead to discrimination, although it is possible to be prejudiced and not act upon the attitudes. Those who practice discrimination do so to protect opportunities for themselves by denying access to those whom they believe do not deserve the same treatment as everyone else.