Racism refers to a variety of practices, beliefs, social relations, and phenomena that work to reproduce a racial hierarchy and social structure that yield superiority, power, and privilege for some, and discrimination and oppression for others.
It can take several forms, including representational, ideological, discursive, interactional, institutional, structural, and systemic
Racism exists when ideas and assumptions about racial categories are used to justify and reproduce a racial hierarchy and racially structured society that unjustly limits access to resources, rights, and privileges on the basis of race. Racism also occurs when this kind of unjust social structure is produced by the failure to account for race and its historical and contemporary roles in society.
It is about much more than race-based prejudice it exists when an imbalance in power and social status is generated by how we understand and act upon race.
So let’s look at its forms starting with representational racism which to mind is both the foundation and the root cause of its existence.
Depictions of racial stereotypes are common in popular culture and media, like the historical tendency to cast people of color as criminals and as victims of crime rather than in other roles, or as background characters rather than as leads in film and television.
This form encapsulates a whole range of racist ideas that imply inferiority, and often stupidity and untrustworthiness, in images that circulate society and permeate our culture.
The presence of such images and our interaction with them on a near-constant basis helps to keep alive the racist ideas attached to them.
Then you have ideological Racism.
This is a totally different kettle of fish.
Historically, this particular form of ideological racism supported and justified the building of European colonial empires and the U.S. imperialism through the unjust acquisition of land, people, and resources around the world. This form of racism has a negative impact on people of color as a whole because it works to deny them access to and/or success within education and the professional world, and subjects them to heightened police surveillance, harassment, and violence among other negative outcomes.
Next, you have Racial language. The actual words we use to describe people and places.
This kind of racism is expressed as racial slurs and hate speech, but also as code words that have racialized meanings embedded in them, like “ghetto,” “thug,” or “gangsta.”
Unfortunately using words like these rely on stereotypical racial differences to communicate explicit or implicit hierarchies perpetuates the racist inequalities that exist in society.
Next, we have Institutional Racism. Practice through society’s institutions.
This takes the form of everything from laws to Stop and search. Institutional racism preserves and fuels the racial gaps in wealth education, and social status, and serves to perpetuate white supremacy and privilege.
One more form. International racism.
When a person of color is verbally or physically assaulted because of their race, this is interactional racism.
Not forgetting Structural Racism.
Structural racism results in large-scale, society-wide inequalities on the basis of race. Its a combination of all of the above forms.
And that leaves us with Systemic Racism.
This means that racism was built into the very foundation of our society, and because of this, it has influenced the development of social institutions, laws, policies, beliefs, media representations, and behaviors and interactions, among many other things. By this definition, the system itself is racist, so effectively addressing racism requires a system-wide approach that leaves nothing unexamined.
To sum up.
While something may not appear obviously racist at first glance, it may, in fact, prove to be racist when one examines the implications of it through a sociological lens. If it relies on stereotypical notions of race and reproduces a racially structured society, then it is racist.
In the end, describing someone using race, is racist and all of us do that.
It’s not Black lives that matter its all lives matter.