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Author: Zach Lamb

Recognize the difference between discrimination and prejudice. 

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello, welcome to Sociological Studies. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to join me. In this lesson, we're going to talk about the interrelated ideas of prejudice and discrimination and see how then these ideas go from individuals into institutions such that the institutions in society are also discriminatory. And we call that institutional prejudice and discrimination.

The key to seeing the difference between prejudice and discrimination is to recognize that prejudice is an attitude or an idea about another group, an unfair idea about another group. And discrimination is putting that idea into action in the world. Discrimination can be positive or negative. You could have discrimination that is positive in the sense that it opens up opportunities for one group by discriminating.

Or you can have negative discrimination that restricts the opportunities for a group in society. And often it is institutions that do this. Institutions have more power than individuals to shape opportunities and constraints in society. And remember that people with their own prejudices and discriminations make up institutions. And institutions are nothing but the linked up ideas of the people within them.

So things like the police and the law enforcement, the courts, schools, banking in the workplace, for instance, are institutions made up of individuals. And these institutions can exert their own prejudice and discrimination. And this is more harmful then, as I said, because institutions are often more powerful than individuals.

The Brown versus the Board of Education Supreme Court ruling was a landmark rebuke of institutional discrimination. Brown versus Board of Education was the Supreme Court ruling that put an end to this idea of separate, but equal, meaning that black students were in one school, and white students were in another school. Separate, but equal. But it turns out, it wasn't equal. It was an example, separate, separation of black and white students, was an example of an institutionalized discrimination in American society. And Brown versus Board of Education overturned that, and schools became blended.

Resume studies is another example of institutionalized discrimination in American society. By resume studies, I mean scholars have done studies on submitting identical resumes with black sounding names and white sounding names and seeing differential outcomes as a result of just the name on the resume. Researchers have also found that banks have either denied mortgages on the basis of some kind of racial discrimination or else given mortgages, but with higher interest rates based upon racial discrimination. So all of these examples of institutional discrimination illustrate the power the institutions can have over individuals and engage in discriminatory action.

Thank you for tuning into this lecture on institutional prejudice and discrimination. Have a great rest of your day.

Terms to Know
Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka

A landmark supreme court decision that ended institutional discrimination in the American education system.


Action based on prejudice.

Institutional Discrimination

Discrimination that results from the day-to-day operations of some institutions in society.


An attitude or judgment about another group that is unfair and usually involves stereotypes.