Racial prejudice, is when a characteristic assumption ingrained into a person’s psyche is made about another person based on his/her race, community etc., usually derogatory but not always intended to discriminate or hurt. For e.g. When one assumes that every Nigerian is a drug dealer or involved in bank scams or when a darker skinned, bearded individual is looked upon suspiciously as a potential terrorist. Even in a country like India, home to a variation of cultures, almost all the communities have a standing prejudice about another. Like people generalise that every Marwadi or Sindhi is a stingy person, or joke about Nepalis being watchmen, etc...
This, although, may not be physically/mentally damaging, but can definitely obstruct quality communication between individuals. But on the brighter side it can easily be (and ideally it should be) ignored by the recipient.
Solution: Since it almost always stems from ignorance, the victim must, as a duty towards society, make a civilised verbal attempt at clearing it. A simple expression of dislike via a constructive dialogue can work wonders, most of the times.
All in all, racial prejudice does not have to be a major hindrance in the smooth working of a social system. The victim, here must realise, that his/her perception towards the situation can make or break a potential disaster.
Racial prejudice is very much curable.
Racism, on the other hand, is like an inoperable tumour. Racism is when racial prejudice is used as a justification or an excuse to cause severe physical/mental damage to the individuals of a particular race, community, etc., with an ultimate destruction of the human spirit. Unlike, racial prejudice, racism is always a product of hatred & deep-rooted insecurity & superiority complex. It has strong roots into the conscience of the victim as well as the oppressor.
Solution: Although, dialogues help, they can do little to change one's attitude & thinking towards another. It can never be wholly eradicated, but can be subdued with value based education and social acceptance. Social tolerance & acceptance of various cultures & races may sound like a clichéd solution but goes a long way in tackling most social issues if adopted seriously.
Racial Prejudice v/s Racism. While both are impeding to the growth of a healthy society one must learn to differentiate amongst degree of the two evils. Racial prejudice should not snowball into monstrous proportions when it can be taken care of with little tact and diplomacy.
A victim of racial prejudice should consider the following before turning it into an issue of national security:
1. The intent of the defaulter
2. The degree of offence
3. Resulting damage
An over dramatic reaction might get your cause wide attention, but only after it has lured everyone away from the real world issues. Someone calling you culturally offensive names cannot be more important that failing national economy, can it?
Believe me; I am not trying to validate racial prejudice. Having been a victim of it myself at some point in my life, I know how irritating a racial slang can get. But one must not forget, that that is what it really is - slang and nothing more.
The difference between racial prejudice and racism is that of thought and action. One cannot be convicted for murder, simply because he/she thought of doing it without actually committing the crime. Although both can be destructive, one has to address each with the appropriate response and diplomacy it requires. A potential murderous intent can be averted, but each needs to be dealt with distinct finesse at different level of importance. Truly in the world there are a million things to take offence to if you want to, but know which ones are truly worth fighting for.
[“Prejudices are what fools use for reason” - Voltaire]
[Edits provided by Dan]