Prejudice and racism: They differ more than you might think

by Kemi Giwa, Staff Columnist

Racism describes a system built to keep a race or ethnicity away from success and evolution — a systematic disadvantage based solely on race.

By that definition, minorities cannot be racist, per se, making reverse racism is a myth.

It is similar to sexism.

Take what Bustle’s Kat George wrote to back up that claim:

“Sexism is institutionalized. Having someone be biased towards you in an isolated context, for instance, a woman excluding a man from something based on his gender, is simply mean or discriminatory, because it’s an individual act, rather than one that’s historically ingrained in the way society operates to the detriment of men.”

In other words, women cannot be sexist because they don’t systematically oppress men with the institutionalized privilege and power society affords them.

Racism is just that: privilege and power.

Caucasians are not hurt by the racism that pervades society every second because they have structural, institutional and social advantage.

This does not go to say that non-minorities cannot experience prejudice.

They absolutely can.

However, to be quite frank, there is a clear distinction between racism and prejudice.

Prejudice is described as “pre-judging” an individual with opinions not based on actual facts or experience. Though similar to racism, it is nowhere near as harmful and oppressive and does not have the same impact.

Caucasians do not experience the racism that has worked to systematically oppress them for over 400 years and still continues to marginalize them today.

It’s different.

To put it simply, Caucasians are not, have never been and will never be oppressed based on their race.

Minorities today are still dealing with the impact of colonialism — slavery, genocide and other forms of mass oppression that still affect minorities today, as the aftermath of such travesties have resulted in severe poverty in many ethnic communities.

Though many object to that notion, we all must think about this:

Caucasians do not experience racial discrimination that prevents them from obtaining employment, accessing housing and healthcare, and receiving equitable treatment in the justice system. Their privilege is boundless and there are essentially no racial barriers to their success because they are not of the minority.

Because it is often difficult for many to confront their privilege and advantages, they tend to take such comments personally and accuse a minority of being “racist.”

Here on campus, it is important that we understand the different between racism and prejudice.

Though not everyone of the ethnic majority is racist, there are many that are.

Regardless of anyone’s role in racism, every single member of an ethnic majority benefits at the expense of minorities and continues to contribute to racism and its expansion when they refuse to combat it.

Ultimately, racism is essentially an indestructible system.

However, Caucasians must play a part in dismantling it and must listen to the experiences of minorities, especially on a campus where they are the majority.

Speak out when you hear racism being spewed around you, or better yet participate in activities on and off campus that are dedicated to ending racism.

And please do not use the false “reverse racism” theory to downplay minorities’ experiences and hold them back from expressing their truths.

Instead, listen.