In preparation for research into the relationship between people and place in London, Belinda Brown explores some of the issues she hopes to illuminate through it. Her starting point is that prejudice and discrimination, which feed racism, are not deviant traits in inherently ‘bad’ individuals. Rather they are a by-product of a human tendency to categorise and stereotype people in order to get to grips with the world and our place within it. However this does not make racism and discrimination inevitable. Rather the assumption is that there are some social structures and patterns which may encourage these tendencies while others will ensure they are less likely to arise.
This view is implicit in various ways in sociological literature. For example some see racism as a product of unequal power relations (such as slavery) while Schermerhorn, writing in the 1970s described prejudice as “a product of situations; “historical situations, economic situations, political situations; it is not a little demon that emerges in people simply because they are depraved”. Thus the aim of the research is to consider in what set of circumstances prejudice and discrimination are most likely to arise.