A Justice Primer: Racism

“ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

—James Baldwin

#‎Racism‬ – When your society divides people into “races” based on arbitrary factors like skin color or ancestry and ascribes different worth to the different groups

‪#‎Prejudice‬ – When you have negative emotions or thoughts toward people because they are of another race or ethnicity

‪#‎Hate‬ – When you have STRONGLY negative emotions or thoughts toward people because they are of another race or ethnicity

‪#‎Apathy‬ – When you don’t care as strongly about the lives or deaths of people who are of another race or ethnicity

‪#‎Supremacy‬ – When you accept or advocate as rightful the dominance of the dominant race

‪#‎Normativity‬ – When your society’s ideas of what’s “normal,” right, good, tasteful, or beautiful are based on the dominant race

‪#‎Systemic‬ – When your society is set up in ways that harm people not of the dominant race, whether purposefully or not

‪#‎Implicit‬ – When you have unconscious prejudices toward people because of their race or ethnicity

‪#‎Internalized‬ – When you are not of the dominant race but have absorbed your society’s negative emotions or thoughts toward yourself and others also not of the dominant race

#Segregation – When your society separates people by race–when most aspects of people’s lives including little meaningful interactions with people of other races, including in the areas of housing, work, school, friendship, and marriage–allowing ignorance and inequality between races to grow

‪#Discrimination‬ – When your actions harm or disadvantage people because of their race or ethnicity

#‎Microaggression‬ – When you do or say something “seemingly harmless” but it combines with countless other instances of discrimination to cause great harm

‪#‎Stereotype‬ – When your society holds overgeneralizations and other inaccuracies about whole groups of people that shape how they are viewed and treated

#StereotypeThreat – When you know a stereotype exists about you and the extra burden of carrying that knowledge makes you perform worse

#‎Hypervisibility‬ – When your society scrutinizes people not of the dominant race wherever they go

‪#‎Erasure‬ – When your society overlooks the actual histories and lives of people in non-dominant groups, favoring instead either misrepresentation or no representation

#‎Privilege‬ – When you belong to the dominate race and do not face discrimination but sometimes even benefit when others do

‪#‎Complicity‬ – When you didn’t directly cause an injustice but are nonetheless involved in it

‪#‎Colorblind‬ – When you try not to “see race” and end up ignoring racism

‪#‎Moderate‬ – When your failure to oppose racism inadvertently supports it

#‎Denialism‬ – When you refuse to acknowledge injustice in the face of clear explanation and documentation, perhaps because you are terrified by the way things are and don’t want to face it or because you are comfortable with the way things and don’t want to change it

#‎ReverseRacism‬ – When you pretend the dominant race is the dominated race

#BlamingTheVictim – When you imply oppressed people bring oppression and the results of oppression on themselves

‪#‎WhiteGuilt‬ – When you are part of the dominant race and wallow in personal shame about racism instead of doing anything productive

‪#‎WhiteFragility‬ – When you are part of the dominant race and take all talk of racism as a personal offense

‪#‎Solidarity‬ – When you accept the fact that we’re all in this together

#Education – When you embark on a journey of being transformed by knowledge

#CriticalThinking – When you question the “common sense” explanations you grew up with and use history, psychology, sociology, philosophy, literature, etc. to come to a fuller, more accurate understanding of why things are the way they are

‪#‎Empathy‬ – When you work to accurately imagine what others’ lives are like

‪#‎Compassion‬ – When you care about others’ life and do something to show it

#Woke – When you know about all this stuff and care

‪#‎Resistance‬ – When you stop going along with injustice and start going against it

‪#‎Protest‬ – When your resistance involves trying to get people to pay attention and care

‪#‎CivilDisobedience‬ – When your protest involves breaking laws and risking your freedom, your career, and possibly even your life to underscore how serious this is

‪#‎AffirmativeAction‬ – When you make sure qualified people of diverse races and ethnicities are included in things like education and employment

‪#‎Reparations‬ – When your society repays the damages it has inflicted on a group of people

‪#‎StructuralChange‬ – When you change the way society is set up (laws, policies, institutions, etc.) to make things more fair for everyone

‪#‎Justice‬ – When you end history’s wrongs and begin healing its wounds

#Injustice – When you don’t

Essential Readings

Beverly Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together at the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Claude M. Steele, Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (See also: “The Case for Reparations”)

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America

Image Credit

The iconic photo of Ieshia L. Evans being arrested at a protest in Baton Rouge by police in riot gear was taken by Jonathan Bachman of Reuters on July 10, 2016. For more information on the image, see coverage by The Atlantic.

An ongoing project, this page was last updated:
Aug. 2, 2016

Contact me or comment below to suggest additional terms and readings.


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