Racism is defined as the belief that objective or alleged differences between racial groups are justification for asserting the superiority of one racial group over another. Two types of racism exist. There is individual racism and institutional racism. Individual racism is an action performed by one person or a group that produces a racial abuse, for example, verbal or physical mistreatment. Frequently, this type of racism is intentional. There are several explanations for a negative response to difference. One centers on the fact that difference carries an implication of comparison and thus inequality, because we seem unable to view different forms as meaning merely not the same as. It seems we must place a value on any perceived differences and see them in terms of better than or less than, evolving inferences of both power and negativity.
Influenced by the dominant white, Eurocentric, middle-class, Protestant culture, Americans value competition, winning, and limited tolerance for individuals who do not respond to this fashion. The use of comparisons, ranking, and stratifying does not encourage respect for uniqueness or difference except in the sense of being the best. Americans signify power and encourage bias based on ethnocentrism. The perception that on’e own group is better than others, and that values of the group carry the meaning of better than, creates bias.
Being different increases a sense of aloneness, isolation, and abandonment-a sense of nonconnection to others-and threatens the sense of psychological wholeness and intactness that people need. While stereotypes can play a key role in relationships between persons who are culturally different, through social processes they also become critical factors in emphasizing the existence of differences, which, in turn determine ethnic minority/majority status. Stratification is institutionalized into social structure. As a result, expectations generated by the dominant group about tasks and functions appropriate for the subordinate group have a profound effect on the conditions of the subordinates as well as those who are dominant. Power thus becomes a central dynamic in the process of stratification with personal and social consequences.
Institutional racism is defined as a system of structural arrangements that allow access to social resources based on beliefs in the superiority of one racial group and the inferiority of the other. Thus power becomes a primary factor in the cultural process. Unlike individual racism, institutional racism is an action performed by one person or a group that produces racial abuse, for example, verbal or physical mistreatment. Frequently, this type of racism is institutional. One might argue, for instance, that individual racism occurs when a white customer, seeking information, approaches a group of five store employees and addresses the only white member, assuming that this individual is better informed that the others.
Unlike individual racism, institutional racism is not an immediate action but part of racist behavior patterns resulting from erroneous dominant cultural assumptions. Specifically, institutional racism involves discriminatory racial practices built into such prominent structures as the political racism is distinctly, sociological, emphasizing social structures and establishing norms guiding people’s behavior. Institutional racism is the prime factor in maintaining racism.