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Theories of Prejudice in Studs Terkels C.P. Ellis - Essay Example

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Ellis describes an example of how such causal factors of prejudice are shaped due to personal, historical, and environmental issues. This essay is an attempt to relate the theories expounded by Parrillo to the actual case of C.P. Ellis. Terkel’s narrative, after all effectively describes the different levels of prejudice that C.P. Ellis went through before finally reaching a realization that such prejudice should be done away with. By interpreting Ellis’s experience from the perspective using Parrillo’s theories, it is possible to achieve that prejudice, no matter how long it has been held by an individual, can still be eradicated. In applying Parrillo’s theory on the levels of prejudice, it is clear that Ellis did not develop his racial prejudice only in his adult years. Terkel writes that Ellis’s father was a member already of the Ku Klux Klan. Ellis narrated that that he was taught by his father that the Klan was the “savior of the white people” and that it was “the only organization in the world that would take care of the white people.” (Terkel 400) Through his father’s influence, Ellis developed a strong admiration and belief for whatever the Klan stood for, including its hatred for African Americans. It was easy for Ellis to be influenced by his father because, who despite being a drunk at times, made it a point to spend enough fun times for his son. Ellis himself declared his affection and love for his father, including the ideas given to him. The parent’s own outlook is always the first to influence a child, a fact that is even more operative in healthy father-son relationships. The relationship between adult and child, especially when parental, is the most effective condition for a cognitive level of prejudice to develop. Parrillo defines the cognitive level of prejudice as one that “encompasses a person's beliefs and perceptions of a group as threatening or non-threatening, inferior or equal (e.g., in terms of intellect, status, or biological composition), seclusive or intrusive, impulse gratifying, acquisitive, or possessing other positive or negative characteristics.” (385) The development of the cognitive level is prompted by external factors, however. In Ellis’s case, it is the ideas planted by his father in his younger years. The absence of economic opportunities is another causal factor in the emergence of racial prejudice. The frustration of being poor or impoverished despite working very hard can cause individuals to seek subjects where they can vent their anger. It is clear in his narrative that Ellis put heavy emphasis on his frustration over his economic woes. Just like his father, he worked very hard only to find out that his earnings were still not enough to satisfy the needs of his family. He was angry and depressed and he needed to blame someone or some people over his fate. Ellis admitted that he began to blame African Americans. For him, it was the most convenient thing to do since “hatin’ America is hard to do because you can’t see it to hate it.” (Terkel 400). In analyzing Ellis’s statement, it is obvious that he already had the tendency to consider the American social system itself as the probable cause for his and his family’s despondence. However, without the intellectual tools of social analysis, identifying such system as the culprit is complicated.  ...Show more
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The essay "Theories of Prejudice in Studs Terkel’s C.P. Ellis" is an attempt to relate the theories expounded by Parrillo to the actual case of C.P. Ellis. Terkel’s narrative, after all effectively describes the different levels of prejudice that C.P. Ellis went through before finally reaching a realization that such prejudice should be done away with…
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