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The Different Kinds of Racism

Racism does not just happen between individuals – it exists on multiple levels. Being able to identify and understand the different forms racism can take is one of the first steps to being able to “undo” them.

Internalized Racism is the situation that occurs when a group oppressed by racism supports the supremacy of a dominating group by maintaining or participating in the attitudes, behaviors, and ideologies that undergird the dominating group’s power.

Examples of internalized racism include internalized oppression (a person of color having negative feelings toward their own racial group) and internalized privilege (a white person having feelings of superiority of their own racial group over others)

Interpersonal racism is racism that occurs between individuals, when personal racial beliefs affect interactions with others.

Interpersonal racism will often have a victim, and a perpetrator, and include more public displays of prejudice between individuals.

Institutional Racism describes the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups.

One example of institutional racism is the way that school systems in the U.S tend to concentrate people of color in the most overcrowded, under-funded schools with teachers given the least amount of resources, resulting in higher dropout and disciplinary rates compared to white students.

Structural Racism is the normalization of several dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal – that routinely advantage white people while creating cumulative adverse outcomes for people of color.

Structural racism would include depictions in the media of people of color as criminals, which influences the way real people of color are treated on an individual and institutional level – they may be treated with suspicion while shopping, traveling, seeking employment, or even seeking medical care.

Can you think of other ways that racism operates at these different levels? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below.

-Your Friends at Undoing Racism

2 thoughts on “The Different Kinds of Racism”

  1. Thank you for this effort at redressing racism. The four level schema is helpful and should be something that is disseminated in our local media (e.g., the DP). I like that the project is explicitly about addressing white folks and their need to unpack their often unexamined heritage. I long abstained from this dialogue because I didn’t feel as a white person I had the perspective to call out racism and its impact on people of color, especially since I grew up in Texas and carry unconscious baggage no matter what I think I’ve done to rationally correct it. But the post-George Floyd moment makes it clear this is all about white folks recognizing the systemic effects of the culture they’ve benefited from, largely unknowingly, for their whole lives. Let’s all be clear now.

    1. Shelby, thank you so much for sharing your experience unpacking racism as a white person. Your voice and your perspective are so important! White people sharing the ways that the culture of racism and white supremacy has played out for them is (in my opinion) an important step toward dismantling it. Honesty and transparency are key!

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