Discussions about racism are challenging when we have differing language, experiences, and definitions for understanding what’s at the root. For purposes of this site, we use the term “racism” to mean prejudice plus power to emphasize the mechanisms by which racism leads to different consequences for different groups. The relationship and behavior of these interdependent elements have allowed racism to continue, generation after generation. The power of structural racism perpetuates, even in the absence of explicit racist actors, by inherently promoting advantages for white people and disadvantages for people of color, with consequences that have interpersonal, cultural, and institutional manifestations.
Resources in this section offer different ways to understand interpersonal, cultural, and institutional racism. Structural racism is described in the next section. For more information about how these terms are defined, please see the Glossary.
Each of us holds a core set of beliefs about the world. When these private belief systems show up as public expressions of bias and/or hate toward a person of color, the result is interpersonal racism.
In our day-to-day, interpersonal racism might look like a white person refusing to rent an apartment to a person of color, passing over a resume based on one’s name, or making a racist joke. The challenge is that the U.S. narrative about racism typically focuses only on interpersonal acts of racism. Too often, the result is that the individual who inflicts harm gets called out as a “bad apple”, rather than recognizing how racism is entrenched in policies, practices, and culture.
Cultural racism refers to representations, messages, and stories conveying the idea that behaviors and values associated with white people or “whiteness” are automatically “better” or more “normal” than those associated with other racially defined groups. Cultural racism shows up in advertising, movies, history books, definitions of patriotism, and in policies and laws. It helps justify laws and policies, such as racial profiling (an action by an authority based on the assumption that every person in a particular racial group is sufficiently likely to be a criminal that they can be stopped, searched, and/or questioned). The fact of racial profiling thus creates the stereotype that people use to further justify the policy. Cultural racism is also a powerful force in maintaining systems of internalized supremacy and internalized racism. It does that by influencing collective beliefs about what constitutes appropriate behavior, what is seen as beautiful, and the value placed on various kinds of music, art, poetry, speech, and other forms of expression. All of these cultural norms and values in the U.S. have explicitly or implicitly racialized ideals and assumptions (for example, what “nude” means as a color, which facial features and body types are considered beautiful, which child-rearing practices are considered appropriate.)
Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which policies and practices of organizations or parts of systems (schools, courts, transportation authorities, etc.) create different outcomes for different racial groups – for example, by how various kinds of assets or sources of income are considered in credit worthiness, or how the number of bedrooms or bathrooms in a dwelling are considered by child welfare agencies in determining whether or not a child may remain in the home, when those agencies are investigating abuse and neglect allegations. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create, maintain, or fail to remedy accumulated advantages for white people and accumulated disadvantages for people from other racial groups.
NFL star Colin Kaepernick tweeted, “Black people have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized and terrorized by America for centuries, and are expected to join your commemoration of “independence”, while you enslaved our ancestors. We reject your celebration of white supremacy and look forward to liberation for all.”
Anti-Blackness includes both overt racism in workplaces and pop culture (i.e. Black Friday), anti-Black racism embedded in systems and policies including surveillance, policing, mass incarceration, and redlining, in addition to the systemic underfunding of public schools and hospitals in Black communities.
In the workplace, anti-Blackness may show up as white managers expecting Black co-workers to bring up racism in the workplace, then asking them to serve on a Diversity Committee, on top of their other work, with no support or compensation.
The resources below provide entry points for individuals to understand the conceptual framework of anti-Blackness, and how they can intervene and center Black Liberation.
|“The Worshipping of Whiteness”: Why Racist Symbols Persist in America||Alexandra Villarreal||The Guardian|
|Beyond Appropriation: A Letter to My Fellow White Yoga Teachers||Bear Hebert|
|What’s Wrong With Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm||Maisha Z. Johnson||Everyday Feminism|
|White Supremacy Culture||SURJ|
|Discussion Guide: American Denial||Karen Zill, et al.||PBS, Independent Lens|
|Don’t Mess Up When You Dress Up: Cultural Appropriation and Costumes||Kjerstin Johnson||bitchmedia|
|Racism and the Media||Yasmin Jiwani||Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society|
|The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence||Blue Corn Comics|
|Three Ways to Speak English||Jamila Lyiscott||TEDSalon NY2014|
|White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men||Terry Macy and Daniel Hart|
|A Day in a Life: How Racism Impacts Families of Color||Living Cities|
|Confronting Institutionalized Racism||Camara Phyllis Jones, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.||Phylon|
|Confronting Racial Bias at Work||Race Forward|
|Definition & Analysis of Institutional Racism||Solid Ground|
|Discourses on Race and the Role of Government||Grassroots Policy Project|
|Historical Development of Institutional Racism||Robette Ann Dias||Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing & Training|
|Levels of Racism: A Theoretic Framework and a Gardener’s Tale||Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones||American Journal of Public Health|
|Racism Review||Joe R. Feagin and Jessie Daniels||Racism Review|
|The Hidden Victims of Gaslighting||Ria Wolstenholme||BBC|
|Hey, You Got a Little Racism Stuck in Your Teeth||Vu Le||Nonprofit AF|
|Historical Trauma and Microaggressions: A Framework for Culturally-Based Practice||Carl Michaels||Center for Excellence in Children’s Mental Health at University of Minnesota|
|How to Resolve Racially Stressful Situations||Dr. Howard C. Stevenson||TEDMED 2017|
|Liberation and Equity: Love While Challenging Racist Behavior||Ana Cecilia Perez||Interaction Institute for Social Change|
|Microaggressions in Everyday Life||Derald Wing Sue and David Rivera||Psychology Today|
|Project Implicit||Tony Greenwald, Mahzarin Banaji, and Brian Nosek||Harvard University|
|Reducing Stereotype Threat: Strategies for Instructors||Center for Teaching and Learning at Washington University in St. Louis|
|Microaggressions: Power, Privilege, and Everyday Life||Vivian Lu and David Zhou||The Microaggressions Project|