There are many types of racism, and it can be covert, overt, and nuanced. According to the advocacy organization Dismantling Racism Works, “Racism serves the interests of both white people in power (the elites) materially and working-class white people psychically, and therefore neither group has much incentive to fight it.” Racism in the United States includes racial prejudice, racialized power structures, systems of advantages, and oppressions based on race, and it upholds white supremacy. It is based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that has detrimental implications for people of color.
Using euphemistic language — calling something “racially charged” or “racially tinged” when it’s clearly racist, like the use of a racial slur — can appear to downplay the negative effects of the actions or words and excuse the offending conduct/party. It’s more precise to put the focus on the actions or words rather than the person; saying someone made racist statements is clearer and in many cases more accurate than declaring someone is “a racist.”
Deciding when to call something racist in media coverage requires thoughtful consideration; discussing with trusted colleagues, consulting with a wide variety of sources from diverse backgrounds, and describing the specifics of the actions or words can help make the determination.
Types of racism
Internalized racism is when people who are oppressed by racism support and uphold the dominant group’s power, such as when a person of color might stereotype people from their same racial or ethnic group.
Individual racism involves an individual’s racist actions or behaviors, such as when someone calls the police on Black people for activities like having a cookout.
Interpersonal racism involves racism between people, such as when one person of color uses a racial slur against another person of color from a different racial or ethnic group.
Institutional racism involves policies and practices that create advantages for the dominant group and disadvantages for historically underserved groups, such as school regulations that prohibit certain hairstyles mainly worn by Black students.
Systemic racism is a collection of systems and institutions that give an advantage to white people and cause harm for people of color that includes barriers to access, such as Black children being forced to go to segregated schools with less funding.
Structural racism involves a combination of systemic and institutional racism on a wider scale (social, economic, and political systems), such as redlining, a set of practices developed in the 1930s that allowed financial institutions to deny mortgages and loans to people of color in certain areas and that continue in various forms today.
- Racism Defined (Dismantling Racism Works)
- Racism, Sociology of (Harvard)
- Racial Equity Tools Glossary (Racial Equity Tools)
- How Structural Racism Works (New England Journal of Medicine)
- Glossary for Understanding the Dismantling Structural Racism/Promoting Racial Equity Analysis (Aspen Institute)
- A Lesson on Critical Race Theory (American Bar Association)
Racism in the United States is a system and structure that entrenches a power differential between groups based on race that subjugates, marginalizes, and oppresses people of color while upholding white privilege and white supremacy. Using euphemistic language — calling something “racially charged” or “racially tinged” when it’s clearly racist, like the use of a racial slur — can appear to downplay the negative effects of the actions or words and excuse the offending conduct/party. It’s more precise to put the focus on the actions or words rather than the person; saying someone made racist statements is clearer and in many cases more accurate than declaring someone is “a racist.”