Race & Justice: A Primer on Key Terms

“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 thoughts or feelings toward people of another race or ethnicity

‪#‎Hate‬ – When you have STRONGLY negative thoughts or feelings toward people of another race or ethnicity

‪#‎Apathy‬ – When you don’t care all that much about the lives and deaths of people of another race or ethnicity

‪#‎Supremacy‬ – When you accept or advocate as right the dominance of the dominant group

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

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

‪#‎Implicit‬ – When you have unconscious prejudices toward groups of people

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

#Segregation – When most aspects of your life—including housing, work, school, friendship, dating, and family—involve little meaningful interaction with people of other races, allowing ignorance, apathy, and inequality 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 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 lives and histories of people in non-dominant groups, favoring instead either misrepresentation or no representation

#‎Privilege‬ – When you belong to a dominate group and as a result tend not to 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 overwhelmed by the way things are and don’t want to face it or are comfortable with the way things are 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 tend to take talk of racism as a personal offense

‪#‎Solidarity‬ – When you embrace 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 and how to change it

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

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

#Woke – When you know and care about injustice

‪#‎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 an injustice is

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

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

‪#‎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

Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

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:
July 20, 2018

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


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