On Philosophy
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On Philosophy

On Generalized Racism

Definition, Examples & Exercises

From Racism to Generalized Racism

The OED defines racism as:

Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.

Let me define generalized racism as:

Negative treatment of a person or people based on their membership of some group.

The latter definition generalizes two characteristics of the former, namely,

  • C1: What negative treatment constitutes racist treatment
  • C2: What groups constitute as racially relevant groups

Both these characteristics must meet the racist bar, for the treatment to be considered racist.

Illustrative Examples

For example, consider the following statements:

  • A. Alice doesn’t serve Black people at her shop
  • B. Alice doesn’t serve people who are not her friends at her shop
  • C. Alice doesn’t serve people who are not her friends the special drinks in her special drinks cabinet at home

Example A satisfies both C1 and C2. Most people would agree that “not serving someone in a shop” would meet the racist treatment bar. And also that Black people are a racially relevant group. Hence, most people would agree that Alice’s behaviour is racist

Example B, satisfies C1, but not C2, and is hence not racist, though many would consider Alice’s behaviour still abhorrent at some level.

Similarly, Example C satisfies neither C1 nor C2, and is, hence, not racist. But like B, many would agree that there is still something unpleasant about Alice’s behaviour; not as significant as Example B, but unpleasant none-the-less.

Optional Exercises

Hence, let me leave you with the following questions:

  • Which concept do you find easier to understand: Racism or Generalized Racism?
  • Which behaviour do you find easier to avoid: Racism or Generalized Racism?
  • In general, is racism worse than Generalized Racism? Or vice-versa?
  • Are any types of Generalized Racism acceptable in society? What types? Why? (Feel free to define what you mean by society if it might be helpful)
  • Are any types of racism acceptable in society? What types? Why?
Members of the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross and a swastika at a rally near Cedartown, Georgia, April 23, 2016. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ku-Klux-Klan)



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Nuwan I. Senaratna

Nuwan I. Senaratna

I am a Computer Scientist and Musician by training. A writer with interests in Philosophy, Economics, Technology, Politics, Business, the Arts and Fiction.