What is Racism? Racism 101
(I have a page on my blog dedicated to defining racism. Bookmark it for future reference when educating someone on what it really is.)
On Tumblr, the internet, and the world, there are plenty of definitions and explanations for what racism is. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong, and most of them are long, abstract, babbly, bourgeois, and filled with big academic words. This is a bare bones definition of racism simple enough for the average person on the street to understand.
What is racism?
Before defining racism, we must first define these fundamental concepts:
Race is a category that classifies people based on physical (phenotypical) characteristics, such as skin color, hair, hair color, nose, eyes, ears, etc.
Prejudice is a negative belief or opinion about person or group of people perceived to be inferior.
Discrimination is an negative action against a person or group of people perceived to be inferior.
Power is the capacity or authority to influence people to think or act in a particular way.
Okay, now we can define ‘racism’ :
Racism is the use of power and prejudice to racially discriminate against a person or group of people. Since institutions possess the most power in society, racism is an institutional force. Therefore, racism is synonymous with institutional racism.
A good rule to keep in mind: All forms of racism are examples of racial discrimination, but not all forms of racial discrimination are examples of racism.
If White boy Billy tells Black girl Shaniqua that she’s a nappy headed hoe, he’s not being racist, he’s being racially (and sexually) prejudiced.
Now, if Billy calls Shaniqua a nappy headed hoe in class and then takes some scissors and cuts a piece of her beautifiul afro, he’s still not a racist. He acted on his prejudice and therefore racially discriminated against Shaniqua. Billy is too young to wield the power to complete the fusion to full fledged racist.
But, if the school suspends Shaniqua for not cutting her afro because it doesn’t obey school policy, then the school administrators, including the principal, are racist. They used their power to discriminate against Shaniqua for the way she looked.
For more examples check out my #racism posts, which is like a mini blog about racism.
White people - People born in Europe or of European-descent.
People of Color - Non-white people who share an oppressive experience of white supremacy and racism.
White privilege - An elite status of racial advantage given to White people over people of color simply for being white or of European-descendent.
White Supremacy - A system that institutionally upholds whiteness as superior, the crème de la crème, and discriminates people of color for allegedly being inferior.
Colorblindness - The idea that race is invisible and not real and that therefore racism does not exist.
Afro-Latino - A Latin@ person who identifies with their African roots.
African Diaspora - A scattered population of African-descended people throughout the world with a common African origin.
- Race is a social construct, therefore it’s made up and we don’t have to worry about racism. We are all part of the human race.
Yes, race is socially and politically constructed depending where you go. However, that doesn’t mean we should become colorblind. Even though race is arbitrarily defined, people all over the world are still being categorized into a racial hierarchy with Black people at the bottom and with people of color being discriminated against. Race may be a debatable reality, but racism definitely is not.
- Black people and people of color can be racist too.
Negative. People of color do not possess the power to oppress white people. It was Europeans who first created a system of slavery that categorized people into a racial hierarchy with White people at the top and Black people at the bottom in order to gain profits. No Black person ever in the history of humankind has designed such a system based on racism.
Therefore, racism also means white supremacy and it is and always has been fundamentally anti-Black.
If people of color in a position of power discriminates against white people, then that is only racial discrimination. Reverse racism is therefore not possible.
- Not all white people are racist.
True. However, since racism is synonymous with white supremacy in this current global structure, only white people have the capacity to be racist. People of color can only be racially prejudiced and discriminatory.
- Racism is over, slavery was 100+ years ago.
Negative. Slavery is still legal in prisons in the United States. The 13th Amendment states:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Even outside prisons, people of color continue to be disproportionally underrepresented and discriminated againsst in virtually all institutions in the United States and the world. Also, the majority of wealth in the U.S. still rests in the hands of white people.