MUCH has been said recently in the press and other media on racism. What concerns me is what appears to be a lack of understanding as to what exactly racism is.
Under no circumstances can I or do I condone racism and I must point out that it is not my intention to defend racism or racist behaviour.
So what is a racist? According to the English Oxford Dictionary, racism can be defined as: “The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races”.
It further defines to it as: “Prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”
An example might be the belief that a white person is superior to a black person simply because the one is white and the other black.
Another example would be refusing to hire a person of a particular race group for a job because of his or her race.

  • Prejudice – an unreasonable dislike of or preference for a person, group, custom, etc., especially when it is based on their race, religion, sex, etc.
  • Discrimination – The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
  • Antagonism – Active hostility or opposition towards a person. defines racist as “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences between the different human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others”.
Examples of some forms of racism would be where a government, a policy or a system fosters the above as this would lead to discrimination and/or hatred and intolerance of other races.
Understanding the above and coming to grips with what a racist is leads us to ask what is racism. Racism is defined as the mindset of consistently acting under the assumption that the actions of others are racially motivated whenever they concern members of separate races.
To act in a racialist perspective, one must first make sweeping stereotype statements about the character of the person that they are judging, often in a racist manner, thus making one a racialist. So when we say all black people or all white people or all Indians are racists, we are in fact being racists.
Racialists can commonly be identified by noting their tendency towards bringing the topic of race into every discussion concerning members of different races, especially in cases in which race has no basis.

Think about this statement. Racism is not the same as racialism, although they are occasionally used interchangeably. In some cases racialists are often the more staunch anti-racist people.
According to, “Racism is a belief or doctrine that inherent hierarchical differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior.”
However, “Racialism is a belief in the existence and significance of racial differences, but not necessarily that any hierarchy between the races exists. Racialists typically reject claims of racial superiority.”

Another way to put it is to say that a racist believes that interracial relationships are fundamentally wrong. A racialist, however, may simply prefer to date people within his or her own race because they believe other races will be incompatible.
I make this distinction because racism is currently on the fringes of social thought, while racialism remains prevalent in the mainstream. What we call institutionalised racism would more accurately be described as institutionalised racialism.
At any rate, both are dangerous to varying degrees and must be combated with information, temperance and understanding.
Racialism entails a belief in the existence and significance of racial categories, but not necessarily in a hierarchy between the races or in any political or ideological position of racial supremacy.
Racism is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial difference produces an inherent superiority of a particular race.

Des Squire is a managing member at AMSI and Associates. You can contact him on 082 800 9057 or email him at [email protected]

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