When identifying the difference between prejudice and discrimination, it is useful to view prejudice as an internal entity: a product of experience, emotions, intellect, belief structures, and social mores. Discrimination can be viewed as an external representation of prejudice, along with other factors that are internal to the emotional, social and intellectual makeup of the individual.
Prejudice is a word for the whole set of factors that cause an individual to come to pre formed conclusions which favor one person over another; result in instantaneous and unsupported negative or positive judgments about a person or a group of people; and cause reflexive emotional responses to visual, speech, behavioral and other cues that are received from other individuals or groups.
A person who has been raised in a segregated, socially isolated community will enter the wider world with prejudice that is based on what has been taught, talked about, and reinforced. These days, however, there is so much access through the internet to facts about every aspect of truth about people and groups of people. A young person who has grown up in segregation and isolation will enter the larger world with a much better advanced understanding about the targets of their prejudicial attitudes That individual is also likely to enter a far less segregated world, where much closer physical interaction and real experiences will involve people from almost every race, ethnicity, and culture in the world.
In the external world, individuals exhibit their prejudices through their comments, actions, and behaviors. Discrimination happens when an individual acts on their prejudices, lets their prejudices affect their choices and decisions, and chooses differing forms of attitude and behavior based on their prejudicial imperatives. Speaking with a southern accent after being introduced to a Black person, then exhibiting dramatic shock when the Black person turns out to be from Nigeria, is the continuing social train wreck that discriminatory behavior, when it is dishonest behavior, leads a person into.
Discrimination can be honest or dishonest action and behavior. A person who suffered trauma inflicted by another will be inclined to instinctively and negatively react when confronted by a person who exhibits the sensory cues that were recorded during the traumatic event: smell, vocal patterns, appearance, race, gender, and so on. This is honest prejudice, which is one of the survival mechanisms that is a natural response.
Dishonest discrimination includes behavior that is rude, inappropriate or illegal, and is based strictly on an attitude of entitlement to direct such behavior at specific individuals based on prejudicial reasoning rather than truthful, logical, or rational reasoning. The “train wreck” aspect of dishonest discrimination occurs when the recipients of the action or the behavior, or others in a group protest, only to receive an obviously false and insincere “apology , an escalating barrage of excuses, or more belligerent behavior.
A benefit of viewing prejudice as internal and discrimination as external is that the action can be separated from the reasons or causes, and responses can be aimed at the appropriate source of the problem, especially where the person is mentally ill.
In institutionalized corporate discrimination cases, examining the corporate culture of prejudice separately from the corporate policies of denying equal opportunity or allowing a hostile, racist or sexist environment, can help to identify causative factors and to develop corrective actions that are more effective.