A word used in multiple ways in the US, and the source of a lot of miscommunication. Without going into a great deal of cultural analysis, we’ll say that it’s a powerful word, one which will cause a great deal of defensiveness if used to refer to a white person. The legacy of slavery and black/white relations in the US has created a nearly universal antipathy to the idea of forced segregation or differential treatment (especially violent or discriminatory) based on skin color while at the same time producing stronger segregation which amplifies misunderstanding between Euro-descendants and Afro-descendants.
Most white people think of racism as what we might call active racism – the overt hatred and intentional violence towards people of color, particularly descendants of slaves in the US as expressed by groups like the KKK. As these kinds of thoughts and behaviors have gone underground and become taboo, without changing the differential condition of people of color, anti-racist activists have increasingly used “racism” to refer to the culture that reinforces and reproduces differential conditions for whites and people of color.
P-P-T’s perspective is that if you’re not consciously and actively working to dismantle these structures, and you are a person with skin color privilege, you will necessarily reinforce this inequity and benefit from it. This is why it is fundamental that we declare that our work is intended to dismantle race and other oppressions. This is both necessary in order to dismantle racism, and also important so that those affected by oppression can hold us accountable for our behavior and culture.« Back to Glossary Index