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Isms and phobias are the collective names for prejudice towards people with certain identities. The terms reference the typical suffixes of the words for specific types of prejudice. Sexism and racism are examples. Homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia are all types of phobias. Isms and phobias disadvantage minority groups, such as the LGBTQI community and racial minorities.
Isms and phobias can influence people’s thoughts and behaviors. They may use derogatory terms or keep certain groups from opportunities. They may believe they are superior to people in certain groups. They may also dismiss the experiences of certain people. For example, some xenophobics do not believe Islam is a valid religion. Some transphobic people dismiss the way transgender people self-identify.
Discrimination from isms and phobias operates on four levels. It works at an ideological level, perpetuating the idea that some people are superior and others inferior. Feelings of superiority help justify the majority group controlling resources. These feelings of superiority can then work on an institutional level. They permeate systems such as the law, the justice system, the educational system, the media, and public policy. On an interpersonal level, isms and phobias make people feel justified mistreating individuals in the groups they’re prejudiced against. Committing acts of violence against the LGBTQI+ community and refusing to use their preferred pronouns are examples of this mistreatment. Prejudice can also be internalized. Some gay people battle homophobia before coming out because they listen to negative messages about their own sexuality.
Critical thinking can overcome isms and phobias. Rather than simply acting and thinking negatively towards people with a certain identity, we should question what’s behind our beliefs. By educating ourselves about gender identity, sexual identity, and different cultures, we can overcome our own prejudices and become more understanding. Advocating for minority groups can help other people overcome their own isms and phobias.
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