Benevolent Prejudice

jewluminati by jennifer daniel

model minority

Benevolent prejudice is a superficially positive type of prejudice, opinions formed before becoming aware of relevant facts,  (e.g. ‘Asians are good at math,’ ‘African Americans are athletic,’ ‘Jews are good with money’).

Though this type of prejudice associates supposedly good things with certain groups, it still has the result of keeping the group members in inferior positions in society. Benevolent prejudices can help justify any hostile prejudices a person has toward a particular group and act as a wedge keeping outsiders from assimilating into the mainstream.

Most research on benevolent prejudice has been done on benevolent sexism and stereotypical assumptions, including positive gender roles, like men being ‘strong’ and ‘providers’ and women being ‘delicate’ and ‘nurturing.’ Benevolent sexism, along with hostile sexism, is a sub-group of ambivalent sexism. A 1995 study of American perceptions found that White Americans viewed African Americans as hostile, cliquish, irresponsible, and loud, but also athletic, musical, religious, and family oriented. The African Americans said that White Americans were self-centered, greedy, stuffy/uptight, and sheltered from the real world, but also intelligent, organized, independent, and financially well-off.

A Stonewall UK publication (‘Understanding Prejudice: Attitudes towards minorities’) published in 2004 found that interviewees used benevolent stereotyping of gay men as ‘fun.’ They also used ‘caring stereotypes’ of disabled individuals, saying they were ‘vulnerable and in need of protection.’ This was seen as contrasting to the negative prejudices of Romani people, Irish Travellers (both categorized in the survey as ‘Gypsies’) and asylum seekers who were often the subject of aggressive prejudice. The survey also stated that: ‘These stereotypes are not intended to demonstrate a less positive attitude towards these groups, but lesbians, gay men or disabled people can experience these views as negative and discriminatory. This benevolent prejudice demonstrates a lack of understanding of what being disabled or lesbian and gay can mean; a lack of awareness of the more serious discrimination that these groups often experience; and the changing expectations and rights of these minority groups. Other research has suggested that these benevolent attitudes can play an important role in the social exclusion of particular groups, for example because labels like “nice”, “kind” and “helpless” can define some minority groups as not competent or suitable for powerful positions.’ The survey also showed that men were more likely to exhibit aggressive prejudice, whereas women were more likely to exhibit benevolent prejudice.

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