Understanding 4 Different Types of Racism

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Say the word "racism" and many people might imagine someone in a white hood. However, discrimination is much more complex and comes in different types. In reality, ordinary people perpetuate racism daily.

Racism doesn’t just concern a dominant racial group overtly oppressing minorities. There’s also subtle racism, slight snubs or racial microaggressions based on race. Racism includes colorism within minority groups, in which lighter-skinned people discriminate against their darker-skinned counterparts.

Internalized racism is an issue as well. It occurs when minorities experience self-hatred because they’ve taken to heart the ideology that dubs them as inferior.

Does Reverse Racism Exist?

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People have claimed they’ve been victims of this form of racism in which whites fall prey to discrimination.

Do whites ever face racial bias? The U.S. Supreme Court has decided so in a few landmark cases, such as when white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, were prohibited from being promoted because their minority counterparts didn’t qualify for promotions as well.

All in all, however, whites are rarely on the receiving end of racial discrimination. As a growing number of states ban affirmative action, it has become even harder for whites to say they’ve been reverse racism victims.

Examples of Subtle Racism

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Subtle racism, or racial microaggressions, doesn’t make the headlines that, say, reverse racism does, but it’s likely the form of discrimination that people of color most often experience.

Victims of subtle, or covert, racism may find themselves snubbed by wait staff in restaurants or salespeople in stores who believe that people of color aren’t likely to be good tippers or able to afford anything expensive. Oprah Winfrey has described this happening to her during a shopping experience outside the U.S.

Targets of subtle racism may find that supervisors, landlords, etc., apply different rules to them than they do to others. An employer might run a thorough background check on an applicant of color while accepting a job applicant from a prospective white employee with no additional documentation.

Racial prejudice is the driving force behind subtle racism.

Internalized Racism

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In a society in which blonde hair and blue eyes are still widely regarded as ideal and stereotypes about minority groups persist, it’s not hard to see why some people of color suffer from internalized racism.

In this form of racism, people of color internalize the negative messages spread about minorities and come to loathe themselves for being "different." They may hate their skin color, hair texture, and other physical features. They may intentionally marry interracially so their children won’t have the same ethnic traits that they do.

They may simply suffer from low self-esteem because of their race, such as performing poorly in school or in the workplace because they believe their racial background makes them inferior.

Pop icon Michael Jackson was long accused of suffering from this kind of racism because of the changing color of his skin and multiple plastic surgeries.

What Is Colorism?

Actress Lupita Nyong'o posing on the red carpet.

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Colorism is often viewed as a problem that’s unique to communities of color. It occurs when minorities discriminate against those with darker skin than they have. For years in the Black community, lighter skin was viewed as superior to darker skin. Anyone with skin color that was lighter than a brown paper lunch bag was welcomed into elite organizations in the Black community, while darker-skinned Blacks were excluded.

But colorism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a direct offshoot of a white supremacist ideology that values whites over people of color and equips Caucasians with what’s known as white privilege.

Colorism also exists outside of the African-American community. In Asia, sales of skin whitening products remain sky-high.

Wrapping Up

To eradicate racism, it's important to understand the different types of racism that affect society. Whether you're experiencing racial microaggressions or helping a child to overcome internalized racism, staying educated on the issue can make a difference.

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Nittle, Nadra Kareem. "Understanding 4 Different Types of Racism." ThoughtCo, Dec. 20, 2020, thoughtco.com/4-different-types-of-racism-2834982. Nittle, Nadra Kareem. (2020, December 20). Understanding 4 Different Types of Racism. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/4-different-types-of-racism-2834982 Nittle, Nadra Kareem. "Understanding 4 Different Types of Racism." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/4-different-types-of-racism-2834982 (accessed January 26, 2021).