The Definition of Racism

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Racism has many definitions. However, in the past, people were identified by their country’s geographic place, not by their skin color. This essay about the definition of racism will explore how it has changed over time.

Racism can appear in many ways. The most common racism definition is that of a system of dominance, power, and privilege that is rooted in the historical oppression of subordinated groups that the dominant group views as inferior, deviant, or undesirable. The dominant group creates or maintains structures and ideologies that preserve their power and privilege while excluding subjugated groups from power, status, and access to resources.

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Essentially, one group deems itself worthy of power and develops a societal system that prevents marginalized groups from achieving the same level of success, respect, and dignity.

Racism was a widespread problematic social phenomenon that revealed itself in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. This occurred as European explorers encountered the indigenous peoples of unknown lands who looked, spoke, and lived so differently. These explorers, unfamiliar with the traditions and ways of these cultures, found it easier to deny the humanity of these people than that of their peers. However, this was largely still discrimination and policies based on someone’s region or nation of origin rather than their skin color. This essay on what racism is, a question that has plagued humans for centuries, describes what happened next.

The word race appeared and became popular as support for imperialism and its accompanying institution of slavery. Although the origin of the word race is obscure, experts believe that it began as a loose description of similar groups. This description originally was not restricted to biologically similar people. For example, in 1678, John Bunyan, in Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote of a race of saints:

The first English record of the use of the word race was in 1508. In that year, William Dunbar, in a poem, spoke of bak by stairs if sundry racism (backbiters of sundry races). It was not until 1684 that the term race was used to designate skin color and other distinguishable physical features. It was then used by the Frenchman Francois Bernier, who used his experiences as a traveler and physician to employ such an application. Therefore, the word race became famous and accepted when science appeared to reinforce these differences.

The year 1798 has been cited as marking the beginning of scientific racism. At first, racism was not only for skin color but also for religious and ethnic persecution. In its earliest use, scientific racism was employed mainly as a justification for economic inertia. Purveyors of the doctrine imported Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution from biology and applied it to a social context. Whereas Darwin himself had only theorized about species, the Social Darwinists declared that one race was superior to another because it had evolved further and faster than had the inferior group. It was at this point the word race began to be used to describe people’s skin color.

A chain of evolutionary progress was created that placed the black race at the bottom and whites of the Nordic pedigree at the summit of humanity. Therefore, black people were seen as animalistic, subhuman, and therefore incapable of higher thought, while Nordic Europeans were said to be natural leaders. The use of science to prop up racism has probably been the most pernicious development in the history of racism.
In 1442, Pope Eugenia IV granted absolution to Portuguese seamen who, under the direction of Prince Henry the Navigator, took people from Africa and sold them as slaves, as it was not seen as appropriate to enslave someone of the same region or religion. However, ten years later, Pope Nicholas V gave the king of Spain his blessing to enslave pagans, removing the need to travel to foreign lands to enslave workers. In Spain, it was not common to have slaves since it was considered wrong for one Christian to hold another Christian in bondage, regardless of the bondsman’s race. People of all ethnic backgrounds were devout Christians in Spain, so the idea of race tied to skin color was less prevalent here, but the practice continued in other European nations.

By the middle of the seventeenth century, Europeans began to identify black skin with a lifetime of slavery. The year 1798 has been cited as marking the beginning of scientific and continued religious racism. At first, racism was not only for skin color but also for religious and ethnic persecution. In its earliest use, scientific racism was employed mainly as a justification for economic inertia. The Bible was used to reinforce the powerful people’s ideas That dark-skinned people from Africa were cursed people.

A favorite scriptural citation for this purpose was Noah’s curse upon his grandson. Noah cursed Canaan for mocking his own father, Noah’s son, Ham. Noah declares that Canaan must become a servant to the other servants. This scripture was given a racial interpretation by hermeneutics, or conservative Bible scholars, who declared that Ham was the father of the black race and that Noah’s specific condemnation of Canaan should be expanded to slaves in their homes without caring about the true meaning of what is written in the Bible.

By the nineteenth century, proponents of slavery declared that it simply was the natural order for Africans to be a slave and work under other people because the practice had been established for so long. As the peculiar institution of slavery became more prevalent, the argument to legitimate it, especially from a religious perspective, became more vindictive and pervasive in the modern era.

With the massive urbanization of African Americans in the United States in the twentieth century and the resulting residential segregation, major cities were faced with the emergence of institutional racism. This form of racism was more covert than individual, which was person-to-person, emotional, and blunt. Institutional racism resulted in a denial of equal access to goods and services in predominantly black sections of the cities. For example, higher prices and less desirable products were more often found in the predominantly black and Hispanic inner cities than in the white suburbs.

After the American Civil War and Reconstruction, numerous laws were passed to ensure black people could be separated from white people. The laws stated that except in menial jobs, blacks could not enter white restaurants, hotels, schools, or any other whites-only public facility. When they were allowed in the same buildings as whites, African Americans had separate, well-defined places such as balconies or basements to occupy.

Since this type of discrimination manifested itself through institutions and was not conducted by individuals, many people were simply oblivious to its existence. In addition, because of diminished interracial contact in urban areas, many suburbanites, as a result of ignorance of the ways in which societal institutions discriminate, were blamed for not being creative in finding solutions. Institutional racism can explain a disproportionate number of nonwhites being unemployed, underemployed, and incarcerated in prisons. Even after gaining freedom and having the law on their side, black people and other nonwhite people were ignored by many institutions, such as employers, lenders, and government agencies.

Many African American leaders have argued that it is impossible for black people to be racist. They believe that they can be prejudiced but not racist because they lack the power to enforce their prejudice. While this position has been advanced by the African American left, the white right has charged that group with what they call “reverse racism.” Many conservatives contended that government affirmative. Action programs resulted in preferential treatment of minorities, and ever since the passage of civil rights legislation, whites were victimized in the same way that nonwhites previously experienced discrimination. Even black neoconservatives have argued that such race preferences victimize blacks and other people of color by minimizing their achievements.

The most celebrated and concentrated efforts to end racism and discrimination in the United States began with the modern Civil Right movement, which began with the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Under the nonviolent leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., racism was exposed as morally wrong. King’s philosophy accentuated the brotherhood of humanity and love for one’s neighbor, regardless of race, nationality, or ethnicity.

King’s followers erected a workable model of human cooperation that could be emulated throughout the world by marching peacefully and prioritizing peace. Ironically, those who brutalized these nonviolent protesters with police dogs and fire hoses convinced many people throughout the world that racism was an insidious evil that should be stamped out.

As a result of these actions toward the nonviolent protesters, these people were referred to as racists, and later racism became a sensitive topic. Racism topics were spoken about in private, and it was difficult to speak about racism in public.

In conclusion, this essay on racism explores the word first used to describe people in different geographic regions before identifying different colors and religions. However, by the middle of the seventeenth century, Europeans began to identify black skin with a lifetime of slavery. Even in the modern days, people are facing institutional racism, despite efforts to change it. These days we can see the result of the non-violent protest movement because these days, non-white people have the same rights and privileges as their neighbors, and slavery has become forbidden in all countries. No longer does age, color, religion, or nationality matter because, after all – we are all human, and no one has the right to enslave another.

Frequently Asked Questions
What are examples of prejudice?

Prejudice refers to an irrational attitude or opinion formed beforehand, without a proper understanding of the facts. It’s an unfair and biased view of someone or something before giving them a chance to prove otherwise. Prejudice can be directed towards individuals or groups based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

What is the definition of racism?

Racism is the act of showing discriminatory or prejudiced behavior against individuals based on their ethnic, national, or racial origin. It can appear as unequal treatment in various aspects of life like housing, employment, or education. Racism can also take on more serious forms, such as violent hate crimes.

What is systemic racism definition?

Systemic racism refers to the structural and institutionalized discrimination that individuals who are not white face from those who are white. It appears in the form of discrimination in everyday life experiences, such as in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system. Additionally, systemic racism can manifest itself in subtle ways, often unconsciously affecting the way people interact with each other based on race.

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The Definition of Racism. (2019, Mar 19). Retrieved from