Prejudice can be defined as an attitude with three components: affective or emotional, cognitive, and behavioral tendencies. The affective or emotional component deals with fear, distrust, dislike, negative evaluations, etc. The cognitive component deals with inaccurate generalizations, negative stereotypes, etc. The behavioral tendencies include avoidance, discrimination, genocide, hate crime, etc. We can see that these components occur in chronological order to create a racist person.
Today, racism is still occurring, although according to research, it is much less pervasive. Unfortunately, we can still find groups like the skinheads and the KKK who find themselves superior to those of different ethnic backgrounds. One example we can find is by looking at the presidential election of 2008. In this election, it was reported that 26% of the time, race was an issue. But prejudice and discrimination prevail less compared to in the past.
One great example of prejudice that has occurred in the past relates to World War II in which prejudice led to the murder of approximately 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime. Adolf Hitler was the leader in this genocide. He claimed that Jews, as well as gypsies, homosexuals, and mentally and physically disabled patients were a priority danger to Germany. By constructing concentration camps, Hitler and the Nazis were able to rid Germany of such inferiority and threat. Here, Jews and other deeming dangerous prisoners were forced to do hard labor with little food and the threat of being killed by gas chambers, daily shootings, etc. But what could lead people to cause such harm to innocent people? The simple answer is conformity.
Through the suggestive speeches of Hitler, people disregarded their morals and turned to destruction to create a purposive better society. Here is a youtube link with English subtitles of one of Hitler's speeches: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGhdX1SI3KY.
Through historical events and the findings of social psychological research, we are able to see just how much conformity prevails. One good experiment to back up the great significance of conformity was done by Asch, who through line tests, found that approximately 75% of the participants went along with the rest of the group at least once.