Why Are People Racist?

By
racism

Photo credit: Rodrigo Gianesi/Flickr

Racism is like an invasive species. As a mindset and expression of larger cultural attitudes, it tries to overwhelm its competitors wherever it sets seed. Defining victory as someone else’s oppression, racism causes imbalance and conflict in societies in which multiple races or ethnicities of people live and work. It promotes hostility within a culture, and ultimately leads to hatred and violence.

Why are people racist? Why can’t we all just get along?
 

Racism and Racial Groups in America

There are many causes of racism; not all apply in all situations. Additionally, the primary victims of racism change over time. However, in the United States, racism is primarily rooted in the relative dominance of light-skinned individuals, called ‘white’ people, over darker-skinned ethnic and racial minorities.

In America, white people are the dominant race in the social pecking order, as evidenced by their access to the lion’s share of wealth, education and status, and their relative insulation from racialized discrimination, stereotypes and hateful assumptions; crime, police brutality, incarceration and injustice in the criminal justice system; crumbling infrastructure, housing discrimination, environmental toxins; low-wage work, unemployment, poverty, and more.

This doesn’t mean every single white person succeeds, while every single person of color fails. Yet on the whole, white dominance is a clear and persistent trend. This pecking order means whites enjoy greater access and success on average compared to people of color – whether they realize it or not. Such benefits are known as “white privilege.”
 

From Privilege to Entitlement and Racism

White privilege is a major cause of racism in the United States. As members of the dominant racial group, whites experience the privilege normally accorded their racial group as the default. Often, they are not consciously aware of these benefits. Notes the Southern Poverty Law Center, “White skin privilege is not something that white people necessarily do, create or enjoy on purpose.”

White privilege is like a mental blind spot; you can recognize it in what is not acknowledged in a situation. Both racist and non-racist white Americans are taught to ignore white privilege, social theorists say, but it is operative nonetheless.

For example, you might be a white American if:

  • You buy “nude” panty hose or “flesh-colored” band-aids and they match your skin tone
  • Your skin color doesn’t come up when people evaluate your financial responsibility
  • Your race doesn’t seem relevant to the way you dress
  • People assume you advanced professionally because of your merits
  • You don’t worry about being stopped and frisked by police for no apparent reason
  • You don’t worry about being perceived as a shoplifter when you patronize a business

White privilege is not exactly the same as racism, but it is at the heart of racism. It makes the sense of entitlement underlying racism possible. Because white people continually benefit from their race’s social dominance, and because these social benefits are automatic and appear to be the default, white people learn to expect white privileges. They learn to feel entitled to them because they don’t see them as privileges, but as rights.

When you believe you have a right to something, you become angry when you don’t get it. This is the root of white racism in America. Sometimes, whites don’t get the job they want. Sometimes, they don’t get into the college they prefer. Sometimes, they are ‘forced’ to listen to “thug music” at a gas station. When a minority receives a social benefit instead of a white person, it can provoke white rage due the underlying sense of racial entitlement.

When a white person receives a social benefit, it is invisible. Racist whites don’t get upset over racial injustice unless their own sense of entitlement has been violated. Contrary to racist assertions, people of color do not have a sense of racial entitlement. Confronted with a world biased against them, they only feel threatened.
 

Racial Reconciliation: Welcome Back To Society

Despite racist assertions, white entitlement is the prevailing source of unfairness – not affirmative action, nor any other partial effort to reduce society’s built-in white bias.

White people inherit the seeds of entitlement through the culture. But as individuals, each white person may choose to cultivate these seeds or leave them be. Courageous anti-racist white individuals go even further, joining together to smother the seeds of racism before they sprout into an invasive species that wipes out social peace.

Many white people deny instances of white privilege simply because they do not want to be considered racist. This is a positive attitude to start with, but it is necessary to move beyond it.

White Americans must set aside their egos and explicitly acknowledge that they do, in fact, benefit from white privilege. Overcoming the common denial of white privilege is a key first step in the movement to roll back American racism in the name of fairness and democracy.

 

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14 Comments

  1. Anon

    Anon

    November 18, 2016 at 3:22 am

    Okay but why are some privileged white people racist and some not? The privileges you put as examples should logically be the reality for all races (though I know that’s not the case), so how do some white people go from that sense of entitlement and expectation of reasonable things, to the sense of racial entitlement to things that they “deserve to have more than other races,” instead of just things that they deserve to have more than anyone else? How can it cause the other?

  2. mansoor

    mansoor

    May 20, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Haha,
    White man, Black Man, best man is Musil-man..

    Why is there no Black James Bond in any of the series.
    No black Superman, BatMan, Black Spiderman.

    White race ruled over the world brutally murdered millions still today to live in peace by themselves, if such is the case, why not create a wall again or move to other planets.

    These are bizarre, blunt thoughts but indeed:
    most of innovation, modern living tourism and travel to discover the world and God’s nature is acquired and developed by the white race.
    Beauty, ideas, hobbies by white people are really adorable.

    There are problems in Arab world too, all Arabs are not exotic:
    only “Anna Saudi” I the Saudi keeps all rest in trash.

    It is more of an ego, God created all colors and our cognition says
    White race superior to other races.

    Hitler went for Aryans as the supreme race and fought world war
    If he would have won it was still for white Aryans. lol.

    Problem arrises whenver any one takes away your right, your part of piece of earned bread from your stomach for which you , your family and even coming generations affiliated with you as a group, klang or community suffer.

    Think of it:

    Most Peaceful and highly living countries in the world are in Europe.
    and Countries
    in Africa and South Africa are difficult to live in.

    keeping faith aside, as Christian, buddhist, Atheist, hindu, jew or Muslim.
    We are less humans and since my childhood
    we hear
    White people speak truth and never tell lies, in their acts “If they read kalma” they would be best muslims in the world…….. (i am not preaching here, but an example).

    However, What happened to mayan, Aztech and Native American races in 400 years of modern American dream: Those red indians were the terrorists as they resisted land occupations. Columbus was not a Musad Agent.
    lolz.

    No offence to anyone.

  3. Sourabh

    Sourabh

    December 24, 2015 at 12:36 am

    My guess is it’s a chicken vs egg pheonmeonn, Jim. Which comes first, people avoiding responsibility for their own well-being (blaming greedy Jews and job stealers) or socialism?

  4. felipeeeeee

    felipeeeeee

    May 7, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    White privilege?
    I did nothing wrong. Stop trying to make me feel guilty.
    Stereotypes are typically true. All races (as a whole) have made their beds. Some are now scrambling for excuses to the poor decisions that were made.
    I don’t cross the street when black people are walking toward me because I’m racist. I do it because I was jumped and robbed by groups of them…twice.
    Call me racist. I think of myself as that cautious guy who learned a lesson. I enjoy keeping what’s mine and not getting gang mugged.
    Sorry if find that offensive.

    • Don

      Don't argue with me

      January 28, 2016 at 12:22 am

      You must be an idiot, it’s because of that cowardly fear that there are so many white people killing other races. Claim that you’re just alert all you want, it’s not called being alert, it’s called being racist because you think that a freaking pigment color is going to cause ones actions. (And it’s not just White people doing racist killing, there are people all over killing others out of fear.

    • Dont argue with me

      Dont argue with me

      January 28, 2016 at 1:00 am

      So you say stereo types are true, huh? Well then I guess the stereotype of White people being cowards must be true too, or that they fear other races because they are weak and can’t defend themselves, are you claiming these to be true? Racism is the fear or hatred towards one because of the background they came from, you are the perfect example of a racist piece of trash that should not be alive to see another day. Being afraid to cross a street because you see a Black guy is truly pathetic, thinking that because of something as little as a pigment color is going to decide a persons actions is stupid and flat out sick. They’re people from all over mugging and doing other crap. People like you are one of the main downfalls in this world. (And don’t bother responding, I’m done typing to you.)

  5. Mark Simon

    Mark Simon

    January 25, 2015 at 12:21 am

    BULLSHIT, the fact is, your statement is more racist than anything else, in fact, this is the TRUE basis of racism!!! Stereotype are just that, look in your dictionary for the true meaning of the word. If 80 percent of an ethnic group prefer to drink vodka as opposed, then they deserve to be stereotyped as “those vodka drinkers” The rest of us, that might prefer wine, even though we are only 20%, well, we probably deserve the label “those wine drinkers” How could I possibly take offense to be called a “WINE DRINKER” if indeed , that is what I am..(within context and reference, of course!) Maybe the problem is that in spite of all your crap for the last 400 years, the majority of white people still aspire to something, other than social grant and welfare!! The simple reason for “WHITE SUCCESS” is the proven will to succeed. We have no one to blame (Were not allowed to blame!!!) anyone but ourselves for failure. However, when anyone from any other culture fails, it is a wonderful excuse to be able to blame someone else for your woes!! (Of course, I am generalizing, not ALL people from other groups are losers)….ONLY the ones that believe this shit you’re selling in your article, the ones…looking for an excuse!!! Grow up and take responsibility for your own lives, stop blaming “WHITES” for all your woes!!! This of course is a simplistic explanation and is wide open for debate, I personally don’t give a shit, I don’t mind being white, I will not make excuses for trying my best, I won’t blame BLACK EMPOWERMENT and blatant ANTI-WHITE policy for my losses!! I will simply do what I do best, PROVE YOU WRONG!!! CLICHE TIME – MOST of my “BLACK” friends agree totally with my sentiments, the others come to me for a loan!!!

  6. Mark Simon

    Mark Simon

    January 25, 2015 at 12:20 am

    BULLSHIT, the fact is, your statement is more racist than anything else, in fact, this is the TRUE basis of racism!!! Stereotype are just that, look in your dictionary for the true meaning of the word. If 80 percent of an ethnic group prefer to drink vodka as opposed, then they deserve to be stereotyped as “those vodka drinkers” The rest of us, that might prefer wine, even though we are only 20%, well, we probably deserve the label “those wine drinkers” How could I possibly take offense to be called a “WINE DRINKER” if indeed , that is what I am..(within context and reference, of course!) Maybe the problem is that in spite of all your crap for the last 400 years, the majority of white people still aspire to something, other than social grant and welfare!! The simple reason for “WHITE SUCCESS” is the proven will to succeed. We have no one to blame (Were not allowed to blame!!!) anyone but ourselves for failure. However, when anyone from any other culture fails, it is a wonderful excuse to be able to blame someone else for your woes!! (Of course, I am generalizing, not ALL people from other groups are losers)….ONLY the ones that believe this shit you’re selling in your article, the ones…looking for an excuse!!! Grow up and take responsibility for your own lives, stop blaming “WHITES” for all your woes!!! This of course is a simplistic explanation and is wide open for debate, I personally don’t give a shit, I don’t mind being white, I will not make excuses for trying my best, I won’t blame BLACK EMPOWERMENT and blatant ANTI-WHITE policy for my losses!! I will simply do what I do best, PROVE YOU WRONG!!! CLICHE TIME – MOST of my “BLACK” friends agree totally with my sentiments, the others come to me for a loan!!!

    • Dont argue with me

      Dont argue with me

      January 28, 2016 at 12:48 am

      Dude, calm down, there are a lot of White people that are just racist idiots, not just White people though, but people in general. I’m not racist or anything, I love all the same, it’s not the difference of a pigment color that causes a persons actions, it’s the thought of mind. I see (online) so many racist White people making racist jokes and talk about people of another cultures warfare and it’s so pathetic and inhuman. This “racism” trash is going to have to stop because it’s doing nothing but turning the world against it’s own race, the human race.

      • Anitra

        Anitra

        April 21, 2016 at 3:18 am

        Way to use the internet to help people solve proembls!

    • Lakesha

      Lakesha

      April 21, 2016 at 3:46 am

      Time to face the music armed with this great intafmorion.

  7. marco lopez smith

    marco lopez smith

    October 29, 2014 at 6:46 am

    It is not true that its the white people that are most racist in the U.S.A . That is really way wrong in fact it is a few out of all races in the U.S.A . The white people do not speak of the racist acts upon them . I have seen these white children being bashed and out casted more and more everyday. Hate and racist people are seen in alot of children these days and all it does is breed racism and more hate my neighbor’s child came home one day saying the kids at school were calling him honky,white boy and a few racists words and its was Sad. Because on that day we had to teach him racism.We had to explain that different colored skin did not always like eachother. That if you were white,black,brown,olive or what ever some peoples skins are is who that person is and that some of these people did not like you because you was not that color. See he did not see the skin color and was never shown to judge because of the color that we are all one and the same and thats just it we are the same and we should not speak of color when we speak about one and the other it creates racism..

  8. newguy

    newguy

    September 25, 2014 at 3:01 am

    White privilege?

    I did nothing wrong. Stop trying to make me feel guilty.

    Stereotypes are typically true. All races (as a whole) have made their beds. Some are now scrambling for excuses to the poor decisions that were made.

    I don’t cross the street when black people are walking toward me because I’m racist. I do it because I was jumped and robbed by groups of them…twice.

    Call me racist. I think of myself as that cautious guy who learned a lesson. I enjoy keeping what’s mine and not getting gang mugged.

    Sorry if find that offensive.

    • Don

      Don't argue with me

      January 28, 2016 at 12:23 am

      You must be an idiot, it’s because of that cowardly fear that there are so many white people killing other races. Claim that you’re just alert all you want, it’s not called being alert, it’s called being racist because you think that a freaking pigment color is going to cause ones actions. (And it’s not just White people doing racist killing, there are people all over killing others out of fear.

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