Racism and Prejudice Caused by Misfortunes

Posted: September 6th, 2013





Racism and Prejudice Caused by Misfortunes

Prejudice and Racism have always plagued the human society since time immemorial. Being a controversial and taboo subject, many people have attempted to explain and establish the reason behind this kind of human behavior. These attempted explanations offer people an insight of the implications surrounding racial discrimination. Through the essay “Cause of Prejudice”, Vincent N. Parillo attempts to explain the reasons behind racism and discrimination in the United States. Ultimately, some of the experiences that C.P. Ellis undergoes as he transforms to a peace man illustrate some of the theories described by Parillo in his essay. This paper was able to identify four theories of Parillo that Elli’s experiences can apply. These theories include social norms, competition, frustration, and socialization reasons for prejudiced behavior (Vincent, 584). In my research endeavors, I was able to establish that Parillo’s theory on frustration as the best that accounted for Ellis’s racism and for his eventual transformation.

The essay “C.P. Ellis” by Studs Terkel is another piece of research that looks to establish a detailed analysis of the causes of racism and prejudice. Terkel narrates the story of C.P. Ellis who is a former Klansmen that claims he no longer depicts racism. From the essay, we understand that Ellis is a white man hailing from the low-income class in society. The numerous misfortunes that surround his life often lead him to becoming a Ku Klux Klan member. However, after some unexpected events bombard his life, he realizes that stereotyping racism does not make people any different from each other. These thoughts progressively direct him from being a racist. Ellis even goes on to accept working with people from different races, including a black woman Ann Atwater (Studs, 592). This example life story gives us an informed understanding concerning the causes of racism and prejudice against other groups.

Among the theories that Parillo uses to support his essay denotes the motive of prejudiced behavior in society. According to this theory, similar to children, we tend to learn from those who surround us and consequently adopt their modes of behavior and patterns without passing any judgment whether they are right or wrong (Vincent, 589). We therefore incorporate in ourselves the values and beliefs of other people even though they are developed from false stereotypes. In the same, the story of Ellis relates to this theory by Parillo. Ellis’ father acted as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. We can in this case assume that Ellis was subconsciously fed with the views and attitude of his father as to how he perceived people from other races. In his own words, Ellis states that the fact that his father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan created in him the natural trait of despising black people.

The second theory Parillo uses to support his essay maintains frustration as among the leading causes of frustration. Regarding this theory, frustration comes from the dissatisfaction from unwanted occurrences in one’s life. When people are unable to succeed, they often tend to vent out their dissatisfaction towards people whom they think are the cause of their frustration (Vincent, 595). In Parillo’s essay, examples from previous settings prove that the minorities in the society are usually the scapegoats for people’s anger. When the situation of C.P. Ellis is compared to this school of thought, we can be able to establish the low financial status of his family. Ellis confesses that he worked hard and never managed to make ends meet. He did not know who to vent his frustrations at and then blamed his misfortunes on the black people. This is the theory that best accounts for Ellis’s racism and for his eventual transformation.

Due to his poor financial situation from his childhood to adulthood, one can be able to see that his problem did not seem to go away. From this situation, Ellis considers black people the best way to take out his anger by blaming them as the cause of his financial problems. Admittedly, Ellis maintains that he worked every day of the week and eventually succumbed to a heart attack. His situation made him bitter and he was not sure who to blame. We can also note that Ellis found out the hard way on the false reality of the American dream since he abided to the guidelines and failed to succeed in the end.

Ellis experienced another incident that can be used to illustrate the prejudice theories by Parillo on insecurity and competition. Concerning this theory, Parillo attempts to explain the propensity behind people’s hostility towards dejection and failure. Parillo gave an example of Chinese sojourners who were involved in the construction of a railroad. Despite being deprived the rights of normal citizens, the sojourners managed to pass the impression of a successful and hardworking people regardless of the sanctions placed on them (Vincent, 589). Consequently, the westerners got the impression that the Chinese were competition in their country. In the same way, Ellis felt certain jobs he felt suited white people were offered to blacks.

Another theory that Ellis uses in his essay attempts explain social norms. In the case of Ellis, we can tell that the he lives in a racist town where some of the activities by the Ku Klux Clan are supported by some authorities (Studs, 597). In his article, Parillo established that relationships normally exist between racism and people’s tendency to adhere to the expectations of society. Parillo also maintains that prejudice is capable of increasing or decreasing depending on the social norms of the given town or region. From the Ellis story, we are able to learn Ellis gains a new school of thought once he moves into anther neighborhood with many black people. He finds out that all black people endure similar challenges to those of his social class.

I believe that I have provided sufficient evidence in support of Parillo’s theories that account for Ellis’s racism and for his eventual transformation. The examples I have given above may not be considered the exact causes of racism and prejudice, but they certainly serve their purpose to define the individual’s character. Nevertheless, it would be safe to assume that social norms, competition, frustration, and socialization play significant roles in influencing racism and prejudice. It is my belief that if some of these beliefs were done away with, then people in our society would be willing to accept theirs and others’ situations. The term prejudice would probably not be in existence.


Works Cited

Vincent N. Parillo. “Causes of Prejudices.” Rereading America (2004): 577-590

Studs Terkel. “C.P. Ellis.” Rereading America (2004): 591-601

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