, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 203-218

Racism: What It Is and What It Isn't

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The words `racist' and `racism' have become so overused that they nowconstitute obstacles to understanding and interracial dialogue aboutracial matters. Instead of the current practice of referring tovirtually anything that goes wrong or amiss with respect to race as`racism,' we should recognize a much broader moral vocabulary forcharacterizing racial ills – racial insensitivity, racial ignorance,racial injustice, racial discomfort, racial exclusion. At the sametime, we should fix on a definition of `racism' that is continuouswith its historical usage, and avoids conceptual inflation. Isuggest two basic, and distinct, forms of racism that meet thiscondition – antipathy racism and inferiorizing racism. We should alsorecognize that not all racially objectionable actions are done froma racist motive, and that not all racial stereotypes are racist.