Dr. Ari Santas’ Notes on

Racism and Anti-Racism: Key Definitions:

Prejudice: socialization towards pre-judging

-race: a social construct created by Europeans during the process of colonization in the early modern period which divided human beings into distinct hierarchical groupings and used science to rationalize discriminatory and oppressive practices (see below)

-race prejudice: prejudice focused on race

-bigotry: negative prejudice involving feeling of superiority

-race bigotry: bigotry based on race

Institution: an organization of human activity that gives a context of legitimacy vs. illegitimacy for what people do

-conventional legitimacy: what the dominant social group decides is appropriate and right and enforces through institutions

-moral legitimacy: what moral reasoning prescribes as appropriate and right and proposes for adoption and enforcement by institutions

Power: means of achieving or maintaining something

-power as violence: illegitimate use of force to gain or maintain something

-power as manipulation: underhanded, sneaky way of gaining or maintaining something

-power as institutional: use of socially (i.e., conventionally) legitimate institutions to gain or maintain something

-empowerment: helping someone find their own means of gaining or maintaining something

-disempowerment: taking away or denying someone's access to the means of gaining or maintaining something on their own.

Racism* = Race Prejudice + Institutional Power: the (conscious or unconscious) use of institutional power to maintain unequal status and superiority over others on the basis of the race construct

-racism as results oriented: racism is not simply about intent, but results, since the dominant social group benefits from race prejudice (through power) whether it is bigoted or not

-racism as institutional: racism is not about individuals personally and consciously seeking gain, but about institutional arrangements which perpetuate domination based on race.

Racist: one whose actions flow from and whose status and privilege is bolstered by racially supremacist attitudes or principles, whether or not the person acts this way intentionally

-racist attitude: a conscious or unconscious supremacist belief which creates a tendency to act, however subtle, on supremacist principles

-racist action: any action which has its origin in supremacist ideology, whether or not the actor is aware of the supremacism

Internalized Racist Oppression (Barbara Major and Kenneth Jones): IRO is the internalization by people of color (POC) of the images, stereotypes, prejudices and myths promoted by the racist system about POC in this country. Our thoughts and feelings about ourselves, people of our own racial group or other POC are based on these racist messages we receive from the broaders system. It is a multi-generational process.

Internalized Racial Superiority (Diana Dunn): IRS is a multigenerational process of receiving, acting on, internalizing, invisibilizing, and legitimizing a system of privilege.

Anti-Racism: more than an intellectual opposition to the principles of racial supremacy, it is the recognition of racism as part of institutional structures and the struggle to stop power and gain based on racism and/or race bigotry

Anti-Racist Organizer: an individual who is not only struggling against institutional racism, but also seeking other anti-racists and creating organizations and networks of organizations to oppose racism in a systematic way


*The definition of racism offered here is based on the work of The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, New Orleans, LA. For more information, contact David Billings at (504) 944-2354. There are two relevant books to look at: Ronald Chisom and Michael Washington, Undoing Racism: A Philosophy of International Social Change, 2nd ed. (People's Institute Press, 1997) and Joseph Barndt, Dismantling Racism: The Continuing Challenge to White America (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1991).