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Racism is race prejudice + power

Origin unknown (ca. 1970)

Used by several groups doing antiracism education and training

rac•ism n (1936) 1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

[On finding that many white Americans were not "prejudiced," and did not harbor hostility or faulty generalizations about other racial groups, but nonetheless resisted change in the nation's racial structure, one sociologist finds?]

that racism extends considerably beyond prejudiced beliefs. The essential feature of racism is not hostility or misperception, but rather the defense of a system from which advantage is derived on the basis of race. The manner in which the defense is articulated - either with hostility or subtlety - is not nearly as important as the fact that it insures the continuation of a privileged relationship. Thus it is necessary to broaden the definition of racism beyond prejudice to include sentiments that in their consequence, if not in their intent, support the racial status quo.

David T. Wellman

Portraits of White Racism, Second Edition

Racism is a global system of material and symbolic resource distribution management more comprehensively defined, in accordance with each of the following principles:

Principle I. Racism is an ideological, structural and historic stratification process by which the population of European descent, through its individual and institutional distress patterns, intentionally has been able to sustain, to its own best advantage, the dynamic mechanics of upward or downward mobility (of fluid status assignment) to the general disadvantage of the population designated as non-white (on a global scale), using skin color, gender, class, ethnicity or nonwestern nationality as the main indexical criteria used for enforcing differential resource allocation decisions that contribute to decisive changes in relative racial standing in ways most favoring the populations designated as 'white.'

Principle II. The aim of this peculiar post-1492 stratification process has been to aggregate an upwardly mobile and putatively 'white' racial group that is stratified internally and that strives to validate its own ascendancy using a shifting last coupon coderange of 'white' cultural practices which are defined as 'white' not on any presumed biological basis, but on the basis of "ideological whiteness"--a field of racial discourse and representation.

Principle III. The conceptual content of this historic and politically-charged discursive field is sustained by racial agents who in many ways articulate and justify the suppression of "ideological blackness" (and every form of non-whiteness this may entail) which may be accomplished by many formal and informal means of institutional domination, routinized interpersonal interactions, cultural imperialism, or by any other racialized means of information control.

Principle IV. As a generative principle of racism, "ideological whiteness" refers to a dual behavioral process entailing enactments of identify formation and resource access legitimation, both of which were practices once overtly recognized as aspects of "white supremacy," but which now may be more subtly and covertly reproduced as an observable and routine set of implicitly prescriptive, but explicitly disavowed white supremacist beliefs and practices to which all who identify as 'white' (or who behave as 'whitened') are expected to adhere--especially white males--if they wish to maintain their own racial standing as members of these two privileged 'white' groups and assert their negotiable right to privileged resource access.

Princple V. Collectively, the 'white' and/or 'whitened' members of this racially privileged global population tend to bolster their shared political intent to impose patterns of restricted resource access on racially subordinant populations, and aim to preserve their presumably non-negotiable right to prescribe, and even dictate, lessor resource 6PM Coupon Code access rights for certain upwardly mobile members of the 'non-white' population whose internalized racism, reliable complicity, and carefully scrutinized willingness to cooperate with racial dominates is always required and rewarded.

Dr. Helan Enoch Page
Associate Professor, Anthropology Department
University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Distributed at the American Anthropological Association, 1993
Updated and extended, 1999

A situation in which one race maintains supremacy over another race through a set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures and ideologies. It involves four essential and interconnected elements:

Power: the capacity to make and enforce decisions is disproportionately or unfairly distributed

Resources: unequal access to such resources as money, education, information, etc.

Standards: standards for appropriate behavior are ethnocentric, reflecting and privileging the norms and values of the dominant race/society

Problem: involves defining "reality" by naming "the problem" incorrectly, and thus misplacing it.

Women's Theological Center, Boston, MA, 1994

Racism - Racism involves physical, psychological, spiritual, and social control, exploitation and subjection of one race by another race. It is the social institutionalization of the psychological concept of White/white supremacy (a man-made ideology of white/White superiority and black/Black inferiority). This means that racial discrimination and injustice are established, perpetuated and promoted throughout every institution of society - economics, education, entertainment, family, labor, law, politics, religion, science and war. Racism is also used as an abuse excuse to rationalize violent behavior and inhumane policies toward Melanites.

Melanite/Melanites - Alternative term for the words "people of color," "minorities," and "non-whites."

Phavia Kujichagulia

Recognizing and Resolving Racism: A Resource and Guide for Humane Beings


  • an underlying belief in the superiority of one race over another and its right to dominate.
  • generalizing one group of people by believing in simplistic stereotypes of that group.
  • affects every aspect of the lives of communities of colour: social, economic, political, health, etc.
  • may take three main forms (though all work together to maintain a system of oppression):
  • Individual Racism-individual acts that overtly reflect racist attitudes/beliefs. This is the easiest one to identify. ie. racial slurs, jokes, etc.
  • Systemic Racism and Institutional Racism-organizational policies and practices at the structural level that indirectly target communities of colour and maintain white privilege. Ie. racism in the criminal justice system (police profiling); racism in the educational system (all white authors on a course reading list.)
  • Cultural Racism-value system that supports and allows discriminatory actions against racially and ethnoculturally marginalized communities. Ie. white privilege.

Anti-Racism Media Education (ARMEd),
Accessed December 20, 2002

Racism - Racial prejudice and discrimination that are supported by institutional power and authority. The critical element that differentiates racism from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systematic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects. In the United States, racism is based on the ideology of White (European) supremacy and is used to the advantage of White people and the disadvantage of people of color.

Enid Lee, Deborah Menkart and Margo Okazawa-Rey (eds.)

Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development

Copyright ©2001, 2009. Center for the Study of White American Culture, Inc. All rights reserved.