What does a prejudice mean

Short the pants, long the skirt,

crooked the nose and the stick,

Eyes black and soul gray,

Hat to the back, expression smart -

That's how Schmulchen Schievelbeiner is.

(One of us is more beautiful)

(From Plisch and Plum, 5 chapters, original in the Wilhelm-Busch-Museum Hannover)

What did you think of as you read this verse?

Perhaps you smirked?

Did you even mentally agree with the content of the verse?

Then you may have fallen for one of many entrenched prejudices.

But what actually is a prejudice?



Definition of terms

The Dictionary defines the term as follows:

    A prejudice is an objective justification or an attitude towards things or people that has not been acquired through experience, especially towards one's own group and foreign groups, through which positive or negative characteristics are assigned to you. Prejudices are more convenient than the critical and rational view and they save you having to think about it yourself. They have basically been adopted and can only be corrected with difficulty due to opposing experiences. (Student girls)
    Prejudice,an affectively * co-determined attitude towards things or people, especially towards one's own group and foreign groups, through which positive or negative characteristics are attributed to them, which is not factually justified or not acquired through experience. Prejudices are generally accepted and can only be corrected with difficulty through opposing experiences (stereotype **). (The Knaur)
*affected also: boastful, self-important or glorious
** stereotype (the; Greek), Social Psychology: from the US. Publicist W. Lippmann coined term (1922) for a prejudice similar, preconceived, template-like way of seeing or imagining certain groups, both for one's own (car-p.) And for strangers (hetero-p.). (from: Das neue Taschen-Lexikon / Bertelsmann Lexikon Verlag)
In short:Prejudices are more convenient than the critical and well-thought-out view.


Prejudice is harmless as long as it is used for amusement. For example, the French are described as good lovers and Italians as the best cooks. But when Kosovars are portrayed as criminals, Turks as drug dealers or Romanians as thieves, prejudices have a hurtful, marginalizing and xenophobic effect.

And yet they persist. The German-American physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) once said: "It is easier to split an atom than a prejudice". An old enemy image is repeatedly put into a new guise without getting on the trail of the actual prejudice. That is also easier than forming a critical and rational opinion for yourself. One could conclude from this that only stupid people have prejudices.

Encountering prejudices

Prejudices often arise during discussions in a happy group, they are used to argue, deny or even gloss over them. In prejudices there is always a scapegoat or a stereotype that stands for everything. (This can also lead to further prejudices.) Further-spun prejudices can easily lead to speculation and to one-sided or false images of history based on it. This, in turn, can lead to effective propaganda theses that can lead to catastrophic consequences in the wrong hands. Albert Einstein once said so aptly: “It is easier to split an atom than a prejudice.” And everyone has prejudices, nobody can absolve themselves of them. Sometimes you don't even know that you are constantly dealing with prejudices and arguing with them.

We need prejudices to live

But the fact is that we need prejudices or at least advance judgments for our orientation in life. The events that we experience would flood us in their multitude if we were to analyze them individually. Even when we perceive a person and think about him, we form a certain opinion. We then tend to evaluate this person and allegedly assign typical characteristics to them. We may have come across these by chance in people of the same nationality or similar. This quickly creates a prejudice against the entire population group and suddenly it is called “blasé” English, “disorderly” French or “uncultivated” Americans.

Creation and combating of prejudices

So prejudices arise from the fact that our perception is dependent on simplifying certain facts by combining them into stereotypes, i.e. classifying them into certain categories.

So quickly people are put into certain drawers because of their culture or religion, which appears different. For example, people generally speak of "the foreigners" and forget that there are some essential differences here too.

Prejudices are very complex and diverse and therefore difficult to combat. Understanding and tolerance are required to remove barriers and create integration, so that it becomes clear that people in other countries may not necessarily think and feel differently than we do.


I think there is a difference when a prejudice is directed against / for a thing than against / for a person or a group.

The human brain does a lot of work, among other things it controls our thinking process, one educates about each one Thing, regardless of whether it is a book, a picture, a music or something else, an opinion and this opinion remains stored in our brain for a while, is forgotten. And then one day you find yourself in a situation that we have had before. The first time we already formed an opinion. Now there is already a PREJUDICE - the one from last time. You have already made your judgment. The first thing that is not registered is whether this thing has become more pleasant or worse, one clings to the old opinion. You can change your prejudices, there is no question about that, with things, at least I think it's easier.

At people is it something else. The first time I heard that "people are put into different categories according to any criterion," everything in me resisted. I didn't want the thought that I, as an individual, would be categorized according to my appearance, religion, culture or anything else. But I found that it is exactly the same for me. You already face a person with a prejudice, even if you only know them from "hearsay". The saying "Foreigners and Germans should exist as individuals and no longer as representatives of their respective groups" - is true. Albert Einstein once said so aptly: "It is easier to split an atom than a prejudice". We all live with the help of stereotypes and prejudices. Because in contrast to animals, we have no strongly developed instincts or other innate behavioral patterns. We count ourselves to the "conscious" living beings on earth. We would be completely overwhelmed in our perceptions and reactions if we only lived consciously. Prejudice helps us find our way around, but it can also get us into trouble ...

Sources and books

“I think I understand anti-Semitism, which is a complex movement in many ways. I regard this movement as a Jew, but without hatred or fear. I believe I can see what in anti-Semitism is raw joke, common envy, inherited prejudice, religious impatience - but also what is supposed to be self-defense "

Theodor Herzel **; The Jewish state; 1896- Vienna

* Persecution of the Jews

** Theodor Herzl, an Austrian writer and Zionist, * 2.5. 1860 Budapest; died July 3rd, 1904 in Edlach, Lower Austria (his body was transferred to Jerusalem in 1949); Paris correspondent for the Vienna “Neue Freie Presse” 1891-1896. He advocated the establishment of a Jewish state and initiated the establishment of a political one Zionism. (The new pocket dictionary - BertelsmannLexikon Verlag)


    Legends, Lies, Prejudices A dictionary on contemporary history Edited by W. Benz; dtv publishing house
    Prejudices against minorities (anti-Semitism) working texts for lessons; Reclam Publishing House
    The large multimedia library
    The new Taschenlexikon - Bertelsmann Lexikon Verlag from 1992


Annika Heine, Melanie Boschke, Jannine Maiorino class AG-99/6, Wilhelm-Normann-Berufskolleg, October 2000