Handout 1: Definitions of Racism
These definitions are adapted from the work of Louise Derman-Sparks and Carol Brunson Phillips, published in Teaching/Learning Anti-Racism: A Developmental Approach (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997).
An institutionalized system of economic, political, social, and cultural relations that ensures that one racial group has and maintains power and privilege over all others in all aspects of life. As such, racism is measured by its economic, cultural, sociological, and political outcomes rather than its intentions (i.e., its effect on both racially and ethnically marginalized groups and racially and ethnically dominant groups).
Individual behavior, the outcome of which reinforces a dominant/marginalized economic, cultural, sociological, and/or political paradigm, regardless of the individual's good intentions. An individual may act in a racist manner unintentionally.
Ways of thinking and behaving on the part of People of Color and other people marginalized by race or ethnicity that contribute to their own oppression by reinforcing a dominant/marginalized economic, cultural, sociological, and/or political paradigm.
It is worth noting that many people believe that People of Color and other people marginalized by race or ethnicity cannot be racist, because their skin color automatically takes away racial benefits. When People of Color and other people marginalized by race or ethnicity make harsh or prejudiced statements against who identify as White or engage in prejudiced actions, such statements and actions reflect a hostile attitude toward White people, but such attitudes must be distinguished from systematic control over the lives/lifestyles of White people. Although bias and prejudice within racially or ethnically marginalized groups (e.g., light-skinned and darker-skinned Latino/as or Blacks) and between racially or ethnically marginalized groups (e.g., Koreans and African Americans) clearly exist, the ultimate outcome is to prop up racist/oppressive systems of control.
Individual and/or group commitment to develop the personal strength, critical-thinking ability, and activist skills to both dismantle dysfunctional and oppressive institutions and to work with others to build caring, just, diverse communities and societies for all.