Racial vs. racist: Is there a difference? Does it matter?


The ongoing saga of Imus’ comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team brings this difference to the surface again. Is there a difference between someone who says something racializing (and negative) and someone who says the same thing but would be identified as racist? The book, Divided by Faith addresses this if memory serves. What do you think? Is there a difference? Does it matter?

My thoughts:

1. There is a difference but it may not matter. Damage is still done whether one intentionally says racist (believes one race is superior to another) things or whether one racializes (makes remarks that disparage a person based on race). Yes, some people do think that certain races are better than others. Other people may not think their race is better but still buy into stereotypes that disparage another race in general.
2. Racialization may in fact be more damaging and more insidious because it makes the surface look fine (its not my heart, I’m a good person) but continue the legacy of hatred just the same. Ask some African Americans and they will tell you that they’d rather live with open racism than with pretend equality that really isn’t.  

5 Comments

Filed under Black and White, Race

5 responses to “Racial vs. racist: Is there a difference? Does it matter?

  1. Phil,

    Based on your definitions of “racist” and “racialize,” I think it’s impossible to separate one from the other. A racist may be more intentional in his words or actions, but someone who disparages people of another race, even without malicious intent, is still being driven by a spirit of racism. To put it another way, at the end of the day, sin is sin.

    Early on in “Divided by Faith,” the authors offer this definition for “a racialized society”: one “that allocates differential economic, political, social, and even psychological rewards to groups along racial lines; lines that are socially constructed.” With this definition, it’s easy to see how we can all participate in perpatrating a racialized system without even knowing it. Even so, racism — or perhaps its legacy — is still at the core of the matter.

    Ed G.

  2. In the end, I think you are right. Both racialization and racism end with the same problem–sins against another. And yet, I think it is helpful to distinguish between the two given the high degree of defensiveness. Some may admit to stereotypes but will not admit to racism. If we can get all to admit we all stereotype then maybe we can drop our guard and admit the sin of racism exists. As long as racists are only David Duke and the Klan, then we are unlikely to get nicer people to see their part in racialization. A similar issue is involved in helping individiuals see they did an abusive act when they think that if they say they commited an abusive act then they are on par with pedophiles. There are worse abusers out there but what I did was abusive….

  3. Anar

    I’m currently researching the history and use of the terms ‘racism’ and ‘racialism’. Part of that research brought me to your blog entry, above.

    So far, my findings suggest a more discriminatory perspective than you’ve articulated. ‘Racialism,’ it seems to me (so far), acknowledges/embraces various indicators as correlative with race. Racism includes the notion of superiority, privilege, etc., such that the ‘boundaries’ of human equality are transgressed.

    While the authors of “Divided by Faith” may’ve offered that definition, I don’t believe the preponderance of evidence supports the notion that ‘racialists’ are necessarily ‘racists.’

    Any replies that may add to my ongoing research will be appreciated (I’ve checked the “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” option so if replies are posted here, I’ll be automatically notified and shall return to read, and perhaps engage in further exploration of this apparently misunderstood and highly politically-charged subject).

  4. Alyssa Chacon

    I am not racist, I am racial. I believe everybody is equal not one person better than any other, that includes race. I make race jokes, and comment on stereotypes and such, but I’m not saying I hate any one race or think any one race is better. Just labeling races on characteristics a large majority of the populaiton of that race exhibit. Like black people are lod and asians are short. Sure there are some short loud white people, but asians really are typically short. I don’t know, I’m not Christian Phycoclogist, justa teenage christian girl. I love all races. Sorry I can’t offer more intellectual point of view, but I still have an opinion so don’t hate hehe.

  5. Peggy Jones

    I accidentally ran across this article as I was looking for answers to my poem “Racism is Alive and Well”, I was looking for the right words to describe my co-workers behavior that what they said wasn’t racist. They did not see or understood what they said in my presence was so insensitive. Your article addresses my research on the basis of such behavior that actually made me the culprit that caused unrest by speaking out and sharing my feelings. I want to use your book as a tool and study guide to share my poem with the desire to get the results that may lead to healing for some people.
    Peggy Jones- Poet With a Vision

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