Racism in Its Forms and Examples

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 6
Words: 1422
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6 min
Study level: College


Racism is the belief that a certain race is superior or inferior to another, based on ethnicity, color, or national origin. It has existed for many centuries and takes different forms that include discrimination, prejudice, and hatred toward an individual or group of individuals. In many societies, people associate racism with actions such as physical abuse, violence, discrimination, and segregation. However, it does not have to involve those behaviors because they can exist in other forms such as name-calling and stereotypical jokes. Racism is usually expressed through people’s actions and attitudes. The apartheid regime in South Africa and the Holocaust are historical examples of racism.

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Forms of Racism

The major forms of racism include individual and institutional racism. Researchers argue that individual racism originates from institutional racism, which is the major cause of segregation, discrimination, and violence against members of certain ethnic groups (Daniels, 2014).

Individual Racism

Individual racism can be described as a person’s negative beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors toward another because of their racial affiliation. It originates from both conscious and unconscious personal prejudice that is expressed in behaviors such as avoidance, segregation, discrimination, derogatory language, and physical abuse (Daniels, 2014). Individual racism can be expressed both overtly and covertly. In certain cases, it is expressed openly in order to fulfill individual needs and desires. Researchers have shown that this form of racism originates from societal beliefs and is usually reinforced by institutional racism (Lavalette & Penketh, 2014).

The issue of individual racism is highly sensitive because of the freedom of speech that is protected under the United States’ constitution. Many people who utter racist comments and statements defend their actions by arguing that their ideas are personal opinions (Daniels, 2014). The privilege of freedom of speech has rendered the mitigation of individual racism difficult.

Systemic/Institutional Racism

Institutional racism is a form of discrimination that is carried out by governments, institutions, organizations, and other corporations that have influence over a large group of people. The term was created in the 1960s and is characterized by an institution’s failure to offer dignified and appropriate service to individuals because of their ethnic origin or color (Lavalette & Penketh, 2014). In large organizations, it is characterized by the exclusion or promotion of certain individuals based on their race. Unlike individual racism, institutional racism possesses the potential to negatively affect a large group of people.

Historians argue that racism is rampant in the United States because of the role played by institutions in the propagation of racist attitudes and beliefs (Lavalette & Penketh, 2014). They argue that the racist feelings that individual Americans harbor toward people of certain races are insufficient to sustain the level of racism that certain groups have been subjected to for centuries (Daniels, 2014). For example, slavery subjected African Americans to bondage for many years. The church worsened the situation because it supported segregation and opposed abolitionism.

Examples of Racism

Racism in Medicine

The United States health care system has been influenced by racial bias in the past as well as in contemporary society. This has led to the unfair treatment of members of a certain ethnic group. For example, the Tuskegee Study of 1932 was conducted by the Public Health Service in an effort to justify the federal government’s treatment programs for African Americans (Gray, 2013). The study did not involve the benefit of patient’s informed consent, and the researchers lied to the participants to compel them to take part in the study (Gray, 2013).” It went on for 40 years. The government also propagated racism by participating in the sterilization of African American women in North Carolina and Native American women in Puerto Rico (Gray, 2013).

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Slavery is one of the most prominent forms of racism in the history of the United States. Its imprint on race relations in the US is evident in contemporary society from the numerous derogatory remarks made against people of color. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 (Higginbotham, 2013). However, slaves in certain states such as Texas remained in slavery for 2 more years after the abolishment of slavery. The slaves were overworked, ill-treated, and oppressed by their owners (Higginbotham, 2013).

Racial profiling

Racial profiling is a highly controversial issue in American politics. Many Americans are targets of racial profiling by law enforcement officers because of their ethnic background (Lavalette & Penketh, 2014). Several cases of harassment at airports have been reported by people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent (Lavalette & Penketh, 2014). African American and Latino youths are unfairly targeted by police officers in New York under the city’s “stop and frisk” program. In the state of Arizona, boycotts have been conducted to fight against the state’s anti-migration legislation that promoted the racial profiling of Hispanics.

Racism in Schools

According to the United States Department of Education, cases of student racial harassment are on the rise. For example, in 2017, the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) received hundreds of complaints regarding racial harassment in various learning institutions (Swaak, 2018). The office revealed that there was a 25 percent increase from the number of cases reported in 2016 (Swaak, 2018).

The department has been criticized for its decision to scale back civil rights investigations at public institutions. The rise in harassment cases is a threat to cultural integration and cohesion. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that hate groups have increased in the US at an alarming rate (Swaak, 2018). These groups aim to propagate some variation of white supremacist beliefs. Other hate groups have been identified as Black Nationalist groups that aim to counter white supremacist groups (Swaak, 2018). In public schools, studies have shown that the minority are more likely to be suspended than the majority.

Effects on Society

Racism has devastating effects on society because it encourages moral, economic, and cultural degradation. Throughout the history of the world, numerous governments have ignored and violated the civil rights of their citizens, thus compromising their cultural and economic development (Lavalette & Penketh, 2014). In many countries, this was demonstrated through the creation of racial caste systems that denied certain groups of citizens their dignity and human rights (Love, 2017). In other countries, ethnic cleansing has created animosity between ethnic groups.

Racism causes cultural, moral, and economic suffering that derails the development of a country. The negative effects of racism influence many areas of life in communities, including peace, employment, justice, economic development, morality, and education. In the United States, the effects of a racial caste system referred to as Jim Crow negatively affected the cultural heritage of the US (Higginbotham, 2013).

It denied people of color their rights and promoted the belief that whites were superior to other races. The laws were oppressive because they regulated socialization, marriage, voting rights, entertainment, education, and sexual relations (Higginbotham, 2013). The racism that is existent in contemporary American society can be attributed to the effects of these laws. Other effects of racism include increased risk of mental illness, limited access to educational and employment opportunities by some groups, hatred, and violence toward some individuals, and breakdown of social cohesion.

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Racism and the Law

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII (Equal Employment Opportunities), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), the Fair Housing Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution are examples of laws that were passed to fight discrimination and racism in its various forms (Love, 2017). However, the problem still persists in today’s society. Many experts have argued that laws are insufficient in mitigating racism. Change in attitude, embracement, and appreciation of cultural and ethnic diversity, and harmonious living are better approaches to the eradication of racism (Love, 2017).


Racism has been rampant in the United States since the colonial era. It can be defined as the belief and assumption that a certain race is superior or inferior to others. According to historians, racism against African Americans can be traced back to the slavery days and the influence of Jim Crow. The two main types of racism are individual and institutional racism. In the United States, racism has been reported in different areas, including medicine, education, government, and the justice system. African American and Latino young men are always victims of police brutality and discriminatory arrests. Studies have shown that African American men are more likely to be arrested on drug charges than white young men. The government has tried to mitigate the injustice that exists in the criminal justice system for many years. However, racism is still a challenge.


Daniels, K. C. (2014). Confronting racism in America as an United States Census Bureau enumerator. New York, NY: Xlibris Corporation.

Gray, F. D. (2013). The Tuskegee syphilis study: An insider’s account of the shocking medical experiment conducted by government doctors against African American men. Montgomery, AL: NewSouth Books.

Higginbotham, F. M. (2013). Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending racism in post-colonial America. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Lavalette, M., & Penketh, L. (Eds.). (2014). Race, racism and social work. New York, NY: Policy Press.

Love, E. (2017).Islamophobia and Racism in America. New York, NY: New York University Press.

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Swaak, T. (2018). “Racism in schools: Harassment claims rise as education department scales back civil rights investigations.Newsweek. Web.