It is important to understand how terms are used both in this Toolkit as well as in broader anti-racism work. The definition of racism is prejudice with the power to enforce it. However, there are differences in what this actually means and there are a host of other terms used in this work. The posts on this page explore various interpretations and emphasis.
Like the below graphics that portray a wide range, a palette of colors (used in ceramic glazes); definitions are nuanced. Just as you see many colors of green, there can be many definitions for “racism” and often the different definitions have distinct uses.
Racism: -Racism is prejudice with the power to enforce it.
-Racism is prejudice backed up by institutional power, based on the belief that race is the primary factor determining positive human traits and abilities.
-Racism holds that genetic or inherited differences produce inherited superiority or inferiority…
Since a shared vocabulary is the necessary first step for discussing racial equity, Generocity has put together a glossary of useful terms. Example — Ally: A member of a dominant or privileged social group who works for justice and equity with members of non-dominant social groups
YWCA Mankato defines racism as the combination of prejudice and power to exert an outcome upon another based on that person’s racial identity. Currently, in the United States, power rests within the white community.
In defining racism, power refers to an encompassing societal understanding of power.
“In a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist — you have to be anti-racist.” — Angela Davis
1. White Privilege: White privilege refers to the unmerited set of advantages, entitlement, benefits, and choices given to people simply because they are white. 2. White Supremacy: White supremacy is an institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression
Race: An arbitrary and disputed classification of modern humans, usually based on a combination of various physical characteristics such as skin color, facial form, hair, or eye shape, … Modern racial classifications took hold in the nineteenth-century as “scientific” explanations for white supremacy and as justifications for colonial imperialism.
1. How do you define racism?
As with other “isms” (like capitalism, communism, etc.), racism is both an ideology and a system. As such, I define it in two ways. As an ideology, racism is the belief that population groups, defined as distinct “races,” generally possess traits, characteristics or abilities, which distinguish them as either superior or inferior to other groups in certain ways.
“Critical Race Theory”
“Critical race theory” (CRT) actually is an academic concept, mostly taught in law schools, that studies U.S. policies and institutions. It started in the 1970s as a framework for legal analysis, when law professors including Harvard Law School’s Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, Cheryl Harris (see her work “Whitness as Property” in the Harvard Law Review), Mari Matsuda and Patricia J. Williams began exploring how race and racism have shaped American law and society. A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas. (See: Housing and Racial Covenants. CRT does not attribute racism to white people as individuals or even to entire groups of people.
CRT does not attribute racism to white people as individuals or even to entire groups of people.
From Wikipedia: “Critical race theory (CRT) is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of US civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to critically examine the intersection of race and US law and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. CRT examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the US. A tenet of CRT is that racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing, and often subtle social and institutional dynamics, rather than explicit and intentional prejudices of individuals.” NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. has an excellent resource.
Virtually no one teaches CRT below the college level yet in 2020 conservative journalists latched onto the term to define any anti-bias training happening in federal agencies. This then morphed into any and all teaching or discussions about racism, “white privilege” or diversity initiatives particularly in U.S. public schools. Conservative lawmakers and activists have used the term “critical race theory” as a catchall phrase for nearly any examination of systemic racism.
Critics charge that the theory leads to negative dynamics, and divides people into “oppressed” and “oppressor” groups; and urges intolerance. The Heritage Foundation attributed a whole host of issues to CRT, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ support groups in schools and diversity training and even the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17. . “When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based,” the organization claimed. Fox new contributor and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, (a conservative think tank) Christopher Rufo said “We have successfully frozen their brand — ‘critical race theory’ — into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions,” wrote Rufo, a s. “We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’”
This has led to parents across the country bombarding school board meetings with complaints that CRT is being taught. (see: Teachers).They believe that racial sensitivity training for teachers and allege that biased curricula indoctrinates impressionable children. At least eight Republican-led states have passed legislation restricting how the concept of race can be taught. In Tennessee, where legislation was signed into law in May 2021, lessons cannot make students feel “discomfort, guilt [or] anguish” because of their race. This has led teachers to being unsure how to teach accurately about slavery and other painful chapters of American history Tennessee’s Department of Education has proposed revoking the teaching licenses of instructors who repeatedly run afoul of the law. In a public presentation this month, a member of Utah’s state school board offered a long list of words that she said were euphemisms for critical race theory, including “social justice,” “culturally responsive” and “critical self-reflection.”
Eight states (Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, and South Carolina) have passed legislation banning the teaching about anything that in anyway would teach about racial disparities from slavery to Jim Crow. . The legislations mostly ban any discussions about conscious and unconscious bias, privilege, discrimination, and oppression. These parameters also extend beyond race to include gender lectures and discussions. Nearly 20 additional states have introduced or plan to introduce similar legislation. The state school boards in Florida, Georgia, Utah, and Oklahoma introduced new guidelines barring racism related discussions. Local school boards in Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia are on similar tracks. Some say that you can’t teach about slavery without also teaching how it benefited African Americans.
Teaching half of a story, like those opposed to teaching “critical race theory”, is teaching a lie. It is indoctrination into the white supremacist system. Why do so many of us deny and attack those who bring the issue forward rather then work to undo our own white supremacist system?
“When all of God’s children can finally breathe free
We can celebrate being a true democracy.
Imagine the joy and delight we will share
When we recover the oneness already there.” James Forbes