The Difference Between Racism and Prejudice

May 13, 2019

Many would agree that the climate we’re in politically has contributed to some of the toughest days for marginalized groups not only in America but worldwide. In terms of moving forward from it all, it seems like we take five steps forward then ten steps back. We want to get to a place of equality. A world where everyone coexists without fearing judgment that drives individuals to treat who they judge unfairly. The hope is there but it continuously gets shrouded in prejudice and racism. When we talk about prejudice and racism, they are two concepts that are interrelated but that are also rooted in two totally different meanings. Meanings that a lot of us aren’t aware of.

 

 Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash 

 

Starting with prejudice, when we take a look at Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word, it describes it as “preconceived judgment or opinion” or “an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.” Many have the right idea to assume that prejudice has something to do with judging. However, to really understand the word is to know that it’s judging before knowing the facts. It’s clearly unfair to come to any type of conclusion without having an idea as to what you’re drawing a conclusion about. What tends to feed into prejudice continuously happening is the influx of opinions from others, even those you may trust. Hearing or seeing the experiences of others and followed by their negative interpretations of it leads you to make a conclusion based off of an experience that wasn’t your own. Sometimes you may have had your own negative experience with an individual. You may look at this person as the basis as to why you now hold all other like individuals accountable, an unfair and distorted ideal to hold. All of these instances connect back to the fact that you have made an assumption with little to no fair investigating on your part.

 

It’s much easier to simply go off of what a friend told you instead of taking the initiative to find out on your own. Taking the time out to truly understand things for what they are is a light undertaking as opposed to falling into the trap of prejudice.

 

The last definition listed under prejudice was “an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.” Race or racism is a factor when developing preconceived notions. Merriam Webster’s definition of the word racism goes as follows: “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” In other words, looking to someone’s race in order to determine who they are and using that determination as a means of ranking superiority. Having a racist mindset closes you off to truly seeing someone in a positive light a part from their race. You’d rather connect their race to how they are and what they do. This gives way to confirmation bias, or always favoring and only interpreting information what already affirms your views. Doing this further closes off the opportunity to realize the good in a person, while in all actuality they’re just like anyone else dealing with the highs and lows of life. Racism unfairly places a huge magnifying glass over anything unfavorable that an individual does.

 

Seeing how the context and definition of both racism and prejudice intersect, it’s important to know that they do stand alone. Keeping in mind what these words mean on their own, you understand the severity of the issue they represent when they are placed together. With all of the growing influences of separation these days it is key to know what drives these influences. Starting with learning things like what prejudice and racism really mean and using what you’ve learned to inform your fight to make things right.

 

Jaimy aspires to be a relative voice to other young adults like her. As a Haitian-American first-generation college graduate, she knows that the complicated journey she's been on to get to where she's at now is the same story for many others. She challenges the status quo by going after what she truly believes in which is having the opportunity to be creative while unapologetically pursuing your passion and not conforming to what everyone else deems is right for you. Jaimy loves to read, stay active, and spend time with the people she loves.

 

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