Racism Definition Essay

Subject: Sociology
Type: Definition Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1075
Topics: Discrimination, Racial Inequality, Racism


The issue of equality in the United States has received a lot of attention since colonialism time, a fact that has brought about the unending problem of racism. It is significantly believed that privileges and priority are given to white Americans and denied to those considered as the minority groups such as black Americans, Asian Americans, and Arabs. This discrimination is based on matters of education, immigration, schools, hospitals, voting rights among others; the discrimination includes slavery or segregation based on color. Formal racial discrimination was banned in the mid-20th century and was deemed socially wrong, however, despite the effort put forward to end it; racism is still a persistent issue up to now in the United States. For instance, an article by ABC news in 2007 declared that about one out of ten admitted to having prejudices against those who are considered minority groups based on their color. (Roij, 2015)

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This study aims to define and analyze racism in a specific context in the United States and explain why racism occurs within that particular context. Institutional racism is the centre of attention in this study, it looks at different institutions in the United States and how racism has been perpetuated in them.

What is racism in general?

Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior to others and should be treated in a unique manner, it is the prejudice or discrimination based on the color of a person, bigotry is the judgment of a person without any knowledge of them or facts, the decision is purely based on their race, group, or religion. Racism occurs in different contexts in the US: There is structural racism which includes history that teaches the dominance and superiority of the whites in the country, cultures that portray racism as a reasonable and acceptable society norm leading to replication of racism, and policies that encourage and reinforce racism. Secondly, we have institutional Racism; this is racism that occurs in institutions either within one institution or between separate institutions. It is the unfair policies, the unfavorable treatment, or the unequal opportunities based on color that are practiced by institutions like schools. (Bornstein, 2015)

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Institutional racism

It is defined as racism that is committed by institutions or entities owned by the government such as schools, courts or the military. It may also feature other institutions like, the church, medical or health organizations and to some extent specific employment organizations. Institutional racism is the most common type of racism in the united states since it occurs in one particular environment and those associated with or belong to that particular organization are greatly influenced and start practicing it on their leading to increasing of individual racism.

Why do people still practice racism?

It is simple; people learn and embrace what their society and culture teach them to be morally acceptable or unacceptable in the community. A Yale university psychologist, Jennifer Richeson, said that unless kids are actively taught by the parents not to be racist, then they will automatically be because it is the environment that surrounds them which shows them how to act. Some part of the today society still hold some cultures that portray racism as not a big deal, and this ideology transfers to generation after generation, and this keeps the issue going on and on due to lack of progressive education concerning racism.

Why institutional racism is widespread in the USA

Institutions have been a primary political target and battlefield since the 1960s.Schools set up disciplinary procedures that are based on students color, and the most unfavorable ones apply to the minority groups while the white American receives special treatment. Activists have also challenged this institutional racism against limitations of access to higher education based on color and general inequalities that oppress some part of society due to their race. Institutional racism does not only refer to schools but other institutions like the courts and military entities, unlike racism within an individual, institutional racism has a considerable impact and power on the people who belong to a certain racial group in an institution.

While individuals may have prejudices against specific groups based on color, racism in the United States would not have risen to great heights if institutions had not encouraged discrimination against people of color for centuries. For example, the institution of slavery held the blacks in bondage for generation after generation. Other institutions like the church also played a significant role in maintaining the acts of slavery or segregation.

Racism in the medical field has resulted in unethical medical procedures to be carried out on people of color and for them to receive inequitable treatment even now. In the 20th century, racism in the medicine influenced the sterilization of black, Puerto Rican and Native American women and to conduct experiments on people based on their colors which involved syphilis and birth control. This research is believed to have caused the death of many. Racism continues in medicine even in the 21st century, studies have found that doctors still harbor some racial prejudices that influence how they treat the minority groups.

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Religious institutions have also played a role in racism. Several Churches have apologized publicly for treating people unfairly based on their color, and for supporting Jim crow and slavery as well, The United Methodist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are among the Christian organizations who have in the recent years given their apologies for practicing and encouraging racism in the institutions (Woo, 2017).Today, apart from churches apologizing for racism, they have also tried to diversify and include the minority groups of people into some of the critical roles, but despite all the effort, churches in the united states are still exhibiting racial segregation.


It is crystal clear that there is still a long way to go to eliminate institutional racism and racism in general in the United States. Activists have been actively condemning institutional racism, but according to recent news and articles are written, the effort is still not enough to cab the issue. Institutional racism is far much reaching since it affects a vast number of people in that specific environment and hence widely spreads racism within and among other institutions. The first step to end racism is to accept that there is a problem and then it is given the much attention that it deserves to put across more severe measures to deal with it accordingly.

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  1. Bornstein, A. (2015). Institutional Racism, Numbers Management, and Zero-Tolerance Policing in New York City. North American Dialogue, 18(2), 51-62. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/nad.12031
  2. Roij, A. (2015). Book Review: Sara Ahmed, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional LifeAhmedSara, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, Duke University Press: Durham, NC, 2012; 242 pp.: ISBN 9780822352511, US$64.18 (hbk), 9870822352365, US$22.95 (pbk). International Sociology, 30(2), 172-175. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0268580915571811
  3. Woo, B. (2017). Racial Discrimination and Mental Health in the USA: Testing the Reverse Racism Hypothesis. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40615-017-0421-6
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