Being a person with a left-leaning ideology, the subject of prejudice has always intrigued me. Understanding society, how people think, and how people react to social changes and progress is challenging. With that in mind, out of nowhere, without being Black, I begin to advocate for affirmative action for Black individuals in universities. Without being gay, I start supporting gay marriage. Without being a woman, I advocate for women’s autonomy over their bodies and criticize the structural sexism in society.
As the conversation evolves and there is some resistance on these points, people like me, who champion the social struggles of others, remain steadfast and support our arguments with theory. We reference ideologues, philosophers, numbers, and studies. With this, we explain how society is prejudiced. We always conclude that progress is necessary. Ultimately, our goal is to sensitize those who resist the reality faced by victims.
But it’s all theory-based. It’s the banner of others, without experiencing it firsthand. This is where the fragility presents itself. It’s not uncommon for someone with a different perspective to accuse us of not being directly involved in our own battles and, therefore, not fully understanding the problem. After all, we are not experiencing discrimination firsthand. I admit that, at the very least, this accusation has some validity.
However, during COVID-19, I saw an opportunity to conduct a significant personal experiment on prejudice. The idea for this arose when I read a scientific article published in Nature titled “Discriminatory attitudes against unvaccinated people during the pandemic.“
In summary, this article, published at the end of 2022, concluded that at the height of the vaccination campaign, there was strong intolerance and discrimination based on the COVID-19 vaccine status. Researchers found that in most countries, vaccinated individuals held negative attitudes toward unvaccinated people. However, surprisingly, there was minimal evidence of the reverse, meaning that unvaccinated individuals were not prejudiced against the vaccinated.
And the prejudice observed against the unvaccinated was far from minimal. It was two and a half times greater than the exclusionary attitudes toward immigrants from the Middle East. Researchers discovered that the unvaccinated were as disliked as individuals struggling with drug addiction and significantly more so than people who had been released from prison.
The research was extensive. Researchers found that many vaccinated individuals would not want their close family members to marry someone who was unvaccinated. They also tended to view the unvaccinated as incompetent or less intelligent. A significant portion of the vaccinated population believed that unvaccinated individuals should face restrictions on their freedom of movement. A smaller percentage advocated for restrictions on the freedom of expression for the unvaccinated, even going so far as to suggest that they should not have the right to speak.
And all of this prejudice was deliberately ingrained in society. This is what can be deduced when reading another study conducted before the vaccine products were released: “Persuasive messaging to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake intentions.“
The aim of this research was to determine which messages were most effective to use during the COVID-19 vaccine marketing campaign. Based on this, people were intentionally programmed like robots later on: “It is even more effective to add language framing vaccine uptake as protecting others and as a cooperative action. Not only does emphasizing that vaccination is a prosocial action increase uptake, but it also increases people’s willingness to pressure others to do so.”