Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Marc JW de Jong
Discrimination is one of the most studied social phenomena within the social sciences because of its serious social, political, economic, psychological, and physical consequences and implications. It is the action of distinguishing and categorizing individuals in a society based on perceived cultural, social, or physical characteristics and subsequently preventing certain categories or groups of people equitable access to social, economic, and political resources. As with all social constructions, the role of perception is central to the understanding of discrimination, as discriminatory practices differ according to the circumstances in which they occur. For example, in the 19th- and early 20th-century United States, Italian and Irish Americans and immigrants were actively discriminated against. Justification for these discriminatory practices rested in commonly accepted stereotypical perceptions that Irish and Italians were lazy, drunk, dirty members of a budding criminal class and unable and perhaps unwilling to assimilate into U.S. culture. Yet, in the 21st-century ...