Prejudice and discrimination are a part of all human cultures (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). In all societies, some social groups are valued, treated respectfully, and can easily access important material and social resources, whereas other groups are stigmatized – they are devalued, treated disrespectfully, and often have difficulty obtaining even basic resources. Members of stigmatized groups face prejudice in economic, interpersonal, and political domains. For instance, relative to European Americans, African Americans on average possess less formal education and have less access to resources, such as health insurance, housing, and employment opportunities (Braddock & McPartland, 1987; Massey, Gross, & Shibuya, 1994; Snowden & Thomas, 2000). Gay men and lesbians and the obese frequently experience social rejection, even from their own families (Baker, 2002; Crandall, 1995). These threats call into question one's basic worth as a human being and can thus pose threats to psychological well-being.
In this chapter, we examine the emotional consequences of being a target of prejudice and discrimination. Individuals are targets of prejudice and discrimination when they or members of their social group are viewed and treated in an unjust negative manner because of their social identity (Major, Quinton, & McCoy, 2002). It is important to note that individuals may objectively be targets of prejudice but not perceive themselves as such. Furthermore, individuals may blame their own (or their groups') outcomes on their social identity, but not perceive those outcomes as unjust.