Common Widely Used Definitions Concerning Race
Merriam-Webster has a new definition of “racism”
The revised definition includes systemic oppression. In the summer of 2020, Kennedy Mitchum, age 22, sent an email to Merriam-Webster and did not expect any results. “I kept having to tell them that [the then current] definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world,” she told CNN. “The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice, it’s the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans.”
Racism is prejudice with the power to enforce it.
- Racism is prejudice or discrimination 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 of one race to another.
- Racism is any attitude, action, or institutional practice backed up by institutional power that subordinates people because of their color. This includes the imposition of one ethnic group’s culture in such a way as to withhold respect for, demean, destroy or co-opt (click here to see info on cultural appropriation) the cultures of other races.
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.
- 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. Women’s Theological Center, Boston, MA, 1994
- is prejudice supported by institutional power and the authority used to the advantage of one race over the other.
Systemic Racism and Institutional Racism:
- organizational policies and practices at the structural level that indirectly target communities of color and maintain white privilege. This includes racism in the criminal justice system (e.g., police profiling based on race); racism in the educational system (e.g., all-white authors on a course reading list, explorers, “masters” in the arts or science all being of European descent),), etc.
- value system that supports and allows discriminatory actions against racially and ethno-culturally marginalized communities. This includes cultural appropriation (see: Assessment Tools)
- A general viewpoint about a group based upon false assumptions. For example, “Red-haired people have quick tempers.”
- Prejudice is an unfavorable opinion formed from irrational feelings without thought or reason.
- Prejudice is unfounded hatred, fear, or mistrust of a person or group. For example, “I don’t like red-haired people because they have quick tempers.”
- Privilege is an advantage, right, or benefit that is not available to everyone. For example “Since you and I don’t have red hair we are more suited to jobs where having an even temper is important and if there is an argument it clearly won’t be our fault.”
- A historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege. (Challenging White Supremacy Workshop San Francisco, CA)
- The belief, even if unconscious, that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society.
- Beliefs and ideas purporting natural superiority of the lighter-skinned, or “white,” human races over other racial groups. In contemporary usage, the term white supremacist has been used to describe some groups espousing ultranationalist, racist, or fascist doctrines. White supremacist groups often have relied on violence to achieve their goals. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/white-supremacy)
“The Language of White Supremacy” — Narrow definitions of the term actually help continue the work of the architects of the post-Jim Crow racial hierarchy. by Vann R. Newkirk II| October 2017. “Who or what is a white supremacist, exactly? The raging debate has resembled nothing so much as a classical ontological discourse on categorization. Are white supremacists considered so because they consider themselves so? Does one become a white supremacist by more Aristotelian means, expressing a certain number of categories of being—or swastika tattoos? Or is the definition something more slippery and subtle?…” —from “The Language of White Supremacy“
- A term used by people who don’t understand that the definition that racism includes power therefore the term is meaningless or fake.
- An ally is a member of a dominant group in our society who works to dismantle any form of oppression especially those from which she or he receives the benefit. Allied behavior means taking personal responsibility for the changes we know are needed in our society. Allied behavior is overt, consistent activity that challenges prevailing patterns of oppression, makes privileges that are so often invisible visible, and facilitates the empowerment of persons targeted by oppression. (see bystander training).
- a white person commenting on the experience of a person of color or attempting to explain racism to a person of color in a condescending or blaming way, as to point out accommodating behaviors that the victim of racism might have adopted to defuse interracial conflict:
- as defined by Robin DiAngelo, white fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves including outward displays of emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, tears and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial comfort and the status quo.
- A fish does not know it is swimming in water. Water is its whole world. Just so, racism, white supremacy, etc. is the environment that most everyone in the US swims in. Implicit (or unconscious) bias is a term used to describe the prejudices that are so ingrained that they are perpetrated yet unrecognized by white people.
- The attitudes that are generated by implicit bias are clear and recognized. The person is aware of their feelings and attitudes, and related behaviors are acted upon with intent.
- is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental insults, marginalization, and indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups. The term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe behavior which he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflicting on African Americans.
- The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in the 1938 stage play Gas Light… The term “gaslighting” has been used colloquially since the 1960s to describe efforts to manipulate someone’s perception of reality. In a 1980 book on child sexual abuse, Florence Rush summarized George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944) based on the play and wrote, “even today the word [gaslighting] is used to describe an attempt to destroy another’s perception of reality.” This is true for the work on racism as well.
- Calling out words or behaviors that feel racist are gaslighted with phrases such as “you can attract more bees with honey,” “you’re overly sensitive,” “what they really meant was…,” “that’s not really what happened,” etc. Note: Allies and well as people of color can experience gaslighting.
“When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting”
by Camille Williams | May 2018
The full article on When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting…
Excerpt from the article…
Iwant to talk about something I witnessed last week in the online world.
…Racism and spiritual bypassing are harmful in and of themselves, and their combination compounds the harm. Add gaslighting, and you’ve got an exponentially toxic brew. In this case, the manipulative elements and dizzying doublespeak were staggering. There were acknowledgements that racism had in fact occurred, followed by denials that it did, round and round. There were fauxpologies followed by defending, round and round. There were expressions of caring for those who had been hurt, immediately followed by not-so-subtle digs at them, round and round….
This section was very helpful. I had heard the term “White fragility,” but hadn’t understood it. Through the many definitions, one gets a sense of the myriad ways that Black people are assaulted daily in ways big and small. I now feel officially uncomfortable and hope that’s a small step forward.
We are so happy you are using our website as the resource it was intended for, and sincerely appreciate the time you spent reading this section. It is a great step forward! It was eye opening for me when I realized I never had to have “the talk” with my sons if they ever were to get pulled over by the police. So many things we just take for granted.
Thank you so much for sharing your comments with us, they are very much appreciated!
Most of this website’s content is neo-racist and doing more harm than good. Please stop trying to divide everyone into racial categories and instead try and unite us.
neo-rac·ism | \ nē-ō-ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm \
1a. : a belief that race is a real and inescapable social construct that determines an individual’s identity, agency, beliefs, ability, or culture, such that members of different race groups can never understand each other due to intrinsic and insurmountable cultural differences.
1b. : prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, or antagonism directed against a person or people based on this belief.
2 : discrimination, behavior or attitudes toward individuals or groups that reflect and foster the belief that members of some race groups are permanently subordinate to members of other race groups.
Thank-you for your comment. Yes, the truth is that the color of one’s skin is no different than the variety of various colors of eyes, hair, etc.(see “Walking in My Shoes“) Unfortunately our history for the last 500 plus years and still operating today HAS made race a real and inescapable social construct that determines an individual’s identity, agency, beliefs, ability, or culture. Saying that is not true, that there is no such social construct operating in our society, will not bring people closer together in fact it divides us even more.
Some articles that explain the problem with this attitude of people who say that they “don’t see color,” are: