Definition: The American Heritage Dictionary lists two definitions of the word “racism”:
1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to
2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.
There is great confusion and argument over the terms “racism” and “racist” – some groups are classified as “racist” while others are considered “incapable of racism due to power difference.”
The first definition can be evidenced when we consider the views of White Supremacists and Jim Crow Laws (which legislate the belief that Whites were entitled to more civil rights than others). The underlying assumption is that one race – the white race – is superior to all others. Laws based on this belief (e.g. Apartheid in South Africa) reflect racism. People who ascribe to
this belief are then, racist.
The second definition leaves greater room for discussion and debate. This broader definition tells us that “discrimination” (treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit) or “prejudice” (a preconceived preference or idea) allows that people of any race can be labeled as racist and any biased (def: an unfair act or policy stemming from prejudice) acts to be categorized as racism.
Also Known As: racialism, racial discrimination
Examples: The teen who verbally or physically attacks another simply because he is of a different race can be considered to be engaging in a racist act, whether he is White or Black, Asian or Latin. Beliefs that all people of another race (be they White, Black, Latin, Asian, etc.) are bad, evil, less than, reflect racism. Of key importance is the idea that racism and racist
behavior is not owned by any one group.
From Susan Pizarro-Eckert, “Your Guide to Race Relations.”