What does racism mean?
Racism is a form of prejudice and discrimination towards people based on their race or ethnicity. This form of discrimination is based on the idea that humans can be divided into distinct groups that are differentiated by their social behaviour, innate abilities and that are ranked from inferior to superior. Racism includes negative emotional reactions to members of a particular group, negative stereotypes and sometimes can be violent.
What are the different types of racism?
Racism can come in many different forms. It can be at the individual level such as covert or overt. It can also be institutional and systemic. Covert racism is harder to detect. Examples include microaggressions and implicit hiring discrimination. Racially biased behaviour can often be hidden or rationalised with an explanation that is socially acceptable. Covert racism is very problematic and empowers the suppressors in society while diminishing the rights and power of those who are oppressed. Overt racism is a more obvious form and usually includes behaviour such as using racial slurs or hate speech, racial profiling, and police brutality.
Institutional racism is visible in processes, attitudes, behaviours and practices that disadvantage minority groups and benefit others who did not earn those advantages. It could be the result of subconscious racism, ignorance or racist stereotypes. Institutional racism affects several areas of society including income, wealth, housing, education and healthcare.
Systemic racism is a form of racism that is deeply embedded into society or daily life, such that it becomes normal. Because it’s normalized, continuing daily life without challenging it perpetuates it and it can often go unnoticed by groups that aren’t marginalized. Systemic racism is visible in areas like health care, criminal justice, employment, and housing. A few examples of systemic racism can be seen in the following; In the United States, Black college graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed as white college graduates. Native American mothers are three times less likely to receive adequate prenatal care.
Does reverse racism exist?
Reverse racism refers to the idea that White people can also be targets of racism. Programmes like affirmative action for redressing racial inequality have been accused by white people as reverse discrimination and putting them at a disadvantage towards minority racial groups. This concept is associated with conservative social movements, reflecting the belief that economic and social gains by minority groups creates social and economic disadvantages for white people. While there are stereotypes about white people, this is considered racial prejudice and not racism.
Racial prejudice includes discriminatory attitudes based on assumptions about a person’s race and/or skin colour. White people can certainly experience this type of discrimination. This is not considered racism due to the systemic relationship to power. When you combine this racial prejudice with differential power dynamics, it creates oppression against certain groups. In most contexts, it is white people who have historically maintained the power to define the terms of racially privileged positions and those who cannot claim this power.
The belief in reverse racism is widespread in the US, yet there is little to no empirical evidence that White Americans suffer any form of systemic discrimination the same way minority racial groups do. Minority ethnic and racial groups lack the power to damage the interest of white people who remain the dominant group. Claiming to experience reverse racism ignores the disparities that exist based on power and authority. For example, a recent study showed that despite only making up 62 percent of the total college-student population and 50 percent of people aged 19 and under, they are more likely than Black, Latinx and Asian students to receive scholarships.
Ricky Sherover-Marcuse explains “we should not confuse the occasional mistreatment experienced by whites at the hands of people of colour with the systematic and institutionalized mistreatment experienced by people of colour at the hands of whites” (p. 2). Racial prejudice against white people may hurt those individuals personally or professionally, and is never acceptable, this type of prejudice does not have the power or authority to affect those white individuals’ social, economic or political position and privileges.
Racism is a form of prejudice and discrimination towards people based on their race or ethnicity. This form of discrimination is based on the idea that humans can be divided into distinct groups that are differentiated by their social behaviour, innate abilities and that are ranked from inferior to superior. Racism comes in many different forms, at the individual level, institutional and systemic levels. While there are claims about reverse racism, it does not hold any truth. Racial prejudice against white individuals certainly exists, and is unacceptable, it does not have the power or authority to affect those white individuals’ social, economic or political position and privileges.
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