Difference Between Prejudice and Discrimination

Prejudice vs Discrimination

Prejudice and discrimination are deeply interrelated words that many take to be synonyms. But in reality they are apart and have different connotations. While prejudice is a preconceived notion or a leaning towards/against someone or something, discrimination refers to action or behavior towards these things and people. Just because we don’t like something or someone, we develop many stereotypes about him, and start to discriminate against him. Discrimination is in our nature and blood. We discriminate among different types of foods, don’t we? But it is harmless as we give preference to some particular types of foods and it does not make any difference to others whether we eat Chinese or Mexican cuisine. Similarly we discriminate among colors and get our home painted in colors for which we have a leaning towards. Some people have likings for a particular dress and abhor others; this is also discrimination. But all such instances of discrimination make no difference to others. It is all about personal liking and disliking.

It is clear then that discrimination is an external representation of prejudice. If we have a popular student in our class and we harbor feelings of prejudice against him, these feelings are translated into actions that reflect this prejudice. These actions refer to discrimination. Prejudice is in mind, discrimination is in action.

Discrimination on the basis of color of the skin is as old as civilizations and has resulted in many revolts and struggles for equality all over the world. The word apartheid represents the way white people in South Africa suppressed and discriminated against blacks and people of colored skins for hundreds of years. This discrimination finally came to an end because of untiring efforts of first Mahatma Gandhi who worked for the rights of Indians and colored people in the early 20th century and then later in the form of Nelson Mandela’s struggle for independence and equality.

A person who has been raised in a segregated manner in his society will have prejudices against other peoples and communities depending upon what he has been taught and has been reinforced with. Thankfully, in this age of information, these so called differences and boundaries are better appreciated and understood than ever before.

This is not to say that prejudices will ever go away in totality. These prejudices are harbored inside minds and get reflected through speech, comments, actions and behaviors when dealing with the external world. In real world, it is easy to see that discrimination is not just against the color of skin and races; it is also against sex which is reflected in unequal salaries of men and women and the majority of men in higher places in administration and all other important posts. This is because of prejudices that are harbored against women that they are not as capable as men.

We are all guilty of prejudices and discrimination. The etymology of the word prejudice itself tells us the folly of our behavior. Prejudice comes from words pre and judgment which implies that we prejudge people before gathering facts and information that would help us in avoiding discrimination that we indulge in, based upon this discrimination.


• Prejudice is pre judgment of people and things in our mind, whereas discrimination is its reflection on our action, speech and behavior.

• Discrimination follows prejudice and not vice-versa

• With increasing knowledge and information, much of prejudice and discrimination has been removed from this world

• It is not possible to do away with prejudice and discrimination