Racism vs. Racist

It is vitally important that we understand the difference between these two terms. In the 21st century, racism is far too often misunderstood as only being racial prejudice or animosity that functions on an individual level. In other words, only a racist (an individual with racial prejudice or animosity) can engage in racism.

Since most of us do not consider ourselves racist, we do not believe that we engage in racism. Similarly, since we also generally believe that we do not know very many–if any–racists, racism cannot be that much of a problem.

However, it is important to understand that while yes, racism can function on an individual level, it is also systemic–and occurs regularly even without conscious racial animosity. By stating that racism is systemic we refer to the ways that racialized policies that create and replicate racial inequalities are embedded in social systems, such as housing, education, or justice systems.

Thus, racial inequalities in, for example, the justice system, do not require police officers or judges to carry individual racial prejudice (i.e. be racists) in order to perpetuate racial inequalities that are inherent in the system (i.e. systemic racism).

The following articles, videos, and websites provide valuable resources to better understand these concepts.

“Forms of Racism” — Calgary Anti-Racism Education

“What is Systemic Racism?” — an 8-part video series — Race Forward

“Racism is Alive and Well in Housing” — Ilyce Glink — CBS News