For example, prior to the shooting of students (4 killed, 9 wounded) by
the National Guard at Kent State in 1970, students across the nation had
referred to the police as "pigs" (i.e. stupid, coarse, and brutal) and the police
had seen students as "hippy radicals" (i.e. long-haired, drug-using, sexually
immoral, dirty, foul-talking, violent ingrates). A day or two before sending in
6,000 troops, the governor of Ohio had called student demonstrators
"nightriders" and worse than "communists" and promised to eradicate them;
President Nixon called demonstrating students "bums;" Vice-President Agnew
commented, "we can, however, afford to separate them [student radicals]
from our society with no more regret than we should feel over discarding
rotten apples from a barrel." It is easy to see how the stage was set for
violence. Furthermore, after the shootings, the National Guard action was
supported by many people who made comments such as these: "it's about
time we showed the bastards who's in charge" and "they should have shot
100 of them" (Scherer, Abeles, & Fischer, 1975). Obviously, our thinking
affects our feelings about people and our actions.
Any time a leader speaks in terms of a negative stereotype or we think in
such terms, we are sowing the seeds of violence. Every time we demean
another human, we increase the potential for aggression. Every human being
has a right to be judged on his/her own merits, not on the basis of a
stereotype. Prejudice is discussed more later on.
Disliking people who are different
Research has shown that, in general, we like people like ourselves and
dislike people who are different (Byrne, 1969). We naturally like people who
reward us and dislike people who punish us; and, similarity is rewarding. If
groups are competitive, critical, and punishing of each other, the dislike and
aggression between the groups grow.
Groups and cultures tend to create ingroups and outgroups. Thus, Hitler
used the existing hostility against Jews to unite, motivate, and deceive the
German people in the 1930's. Likewise, the U.S. and Russia used distrust of
each other during the "Cold War" to unite each country into uncooperative,
hostile but mighty nations. And each person is expected to conform to his/her
group's beliefs. Imagine trying during the 1980's to defend communistic ideas
among Archie Bunkers, businessmen, or the Moral Majority. Or try to defend
blacks among whites or whites among blacks--and see the hostility quickly
rise towards you. In short, ingroups are valued. Outgroups are devalued,
stereotyped, and scapegoated.
Sometimes the minority that is discriminated against by the majority
culture turns the anger inward, resulting in self-destructive behavior, such as
low self-esteem, self-blame (like abused women), alcoholism, drug abuse,
and passive-resistance to the dominant culture's ideals of what is success.
Certainly for a white northern European culture to believe that African,
Chinese, and Indian cultures and histories are unimportant and inferior, is to
be ignorant and disrespectful. Being poor is enough to make you mad, but to
have your ancestors deceived, neglected, and disgraced is too much. Let's
hope conditions improve before the wrath is unleashed outward. More about
prejudice later on.