The Effects of Racism
Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: How does it feel to be a problem? (W. E. B. Du Bois).
Racism has been defined as:
“Racial prejudice that has been incorporated into the activities and procedures of major institutions, corporations, social systems (such as those related to housing, education, and health), and other arenas of major social activity (such as politics, the media, finance, and banking)” (OEMA, 2007).
Racism serves “both to discriminate against ethnic minorities and to maintain advantages and benefits for White Americans” (ibid.). It contains the essential tension of not-so-egalitarian applied presences of the historically different races, with races derived from Northern Europe being considered civilized, whereas all other races are considered inferior (Jones, 1997).
Race and ethnicity. Race is defined as a “human group . . . [aggregated] by virtue of innate or immutable characteristics” (van den Berghe, 1967). Ethnicity is defined as a social group aggregated through cultural criteria and customs. Race as a construct tends to contain within it long-standing connotations of nativism, despite having been debunked in an overwhelming manner in favor of the variable of race as a sociopolitical construct (HGMIS-ORNL, 2003; OMB, 1995, 1997; Shih, Bonam, Sanchez, & Peck, 2007; Smedley & Smedley, 2005; Sternberg, Grigorenko, & Kidd, 2005).
Carter (2007) defined racism as “a complex set of rational and logical beliefs and attitudes that serve to justify the superiority of the dominant racial group, while deemphasizing its systemic characteristics and sociohistorical context.” Jones (1997) defined racism as building “on the negative-attitude view of prejudice” and incorporating:
- The purported biological bases of group characteristics;
- The assumed superiority of one’s own race (ethnocentrism); and
- The rationalization of “institutional and cultural practices that formalize the hierarchical domination of one racial group over another” ().
According to Jones, racism has five basic elements as follows:
- Beliefs about racial superiority and inferiority;
- Ethnocentrism, with the concurrent rejection of customs, ideas, peoples, and practices divergent from the ethnocentric norm;
- Conferral of privilege through a racially-based and dominant-cultural national system;
- Personal and collective thoughts, feelings, and behaviors emanating from various cultural-institutional social structures that support racism; and
- The systematic attempt to prove the rationality of applied policies and practices based on racial differences.