Defining Racism

A recent job application I filled out asked this question and I thought I would share my answer with you guys:

How would you define racism? What has led you to understand racism this way?

Racism is the undeserved judgment of one’s character based on cultural constructs about one’s skin color, language, background, traditions, homeland, and societal status. It is the idea that certain people are inferior to others because of some arbitrary conceptualization of their biological traits and the subsequent minimization of resources and opportunities. Fundamentally, racism comes from ignorance; people who are racist are ignorant to the fact that we are ALL human beings.  Racism is unfair, undeserved, unnecessary, and unfortunately, part of all of us.

To me, racism is the idea that a homeless African girl who lives on the street wouldn’t want a tiara just as much as a privileged white girl. It is the fact that yesterday, when I gave that little girl the tiara, I was surprised by her reaction, and more surprised by her mother’s reaction. In my time in South Africa, I have been asked for money more times than I can remember; I have never once thought about sharing more than food. When this little girl’s mother told me “you have no idea how much this means to her, we sleep on the streets” as a grin broke out across her daughter’s face, I questioned why I had never thought about giving a gift to the children who grow up differently than I did. While I know I still don’t understand all my biases, yesterday I realized that children are children, no matter their circumstances, and that every little girl, whatever her upbringing, might still aspire to be a princess.

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2 thoughts on “Defining Racism

  1. Shirine Taylor says:

    I agree with your definition, it does come from ignorance, but I was surprised here in India to learn that racism isn’t just about treating someone as an inferior,. It can happen that you are treated as a superior just because of your race as well. Racism is the fact that as a white person I have to pay twice as much in the market, just as racism accounts for the fact so many Indians want my photo to prove they “befriended” an American because I am, by some people, considered superior. Racism is Inquality!

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