It was an interesting start to an interfaith ministerial meeting. The minister of the host African American church was late, so the meeting proceeded without him. When he arrived later, he explained that he'd been at court. One of his members, a professional gentleman in his fifties, was leaving a shopping area in an upscale neighborhood. His vehicle was surrounded by three cars driven by young white males, and he was threatened. The police were called and arrested him! The minister had been summoned as a character witness to assure the court that the man wasn't a drug dealer. The man's only offense was being black and driving a new BMW in a white neighborhood. Murmurs of sympathy rose from the integrated audience. All the African American ministers concurred that this kind of thing happened too frequently.
Broadly defined, prejudice is any adverse opinion formed beforehand. It is a bias based on looking at only one side of an issue, and as such it would prevent clearsighted perception of a situation. Under this definition, many people may feel limited by some form of prejudice. The experience of being stereotyped and misjudged before the facts are considered is frustrating and often intimidating. But when human laws established by a majority result in penalizing and restricting the rights of a minority, such laws would legitimize prejudice by institutionalizing it.
Examples of institutionalized prejudice are not limited to history books. Debate continues, for example, about current laws in the United States that would exclude legal residents from government services because they were born outside of the country, and about laws that would prevent government-sponsored universities from adjusting requirements to include more African American, Native American, or other minority students. To the majority, certain laws may appear necessary and logical. But what seems logical from one perspective is onerous and unjust from another.