While racist ideas are not universal, racial discrimination is embedded in American institutions’ laws, policies, and practices. This creates disparate outcomes. Public health practitioners use Critical Race Theory (CRT) to address these disparities. CRT includes a socioecological framework, an emphasis on contemporary societal dynamics and socially marginalized groups, and a praxis between research and practice.
Is critical race theory taught in schools? White supremacy is the belief that white people are inherently superior to people of other races. And that white people should have control over people of other races. It is also the system of social, economic, and political institutions that collectively enable white people to maintain power over people of different races.
Most people think of white supremacists as hood-wearing torchbearers of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, but this stereotype is inaccurate. While white supremacists do exist, many of them are ordinary citizens who are unaware of the racist structures around them. White supremacy is pervasive, which makes it difficult to challenge.
When white supremacy dominates a society, it creates racial ignorance in its citizens and perpetuates the notion that other oppressions don’t exist. This ignorance is a crucial ingredient in maintaining the power of white supremacy.
Understanding how white privilege and supremacy myths influence our perceptions and actions is essential. This understanding can help us dispel some of the misconceptions that linger about racism. The myths and misinformation about racial issues that the white dominant culture communicates to its members are what’s known as internalized racism. When people are discriminated against or targeted by the racial biases of white supremacy. They believe the misinformation as truth and act accordingly. This is why it’s essential to fully understand the many dimensions of systemic racism in policing, courts, schools, jobs, housing, the economy, health care, and much more.
Being asked to reflect on their privilege is a new and challenging experience for many white people. In some cases, discussing race theory can trigger defensiveness and even anger. This is because critical race theory challenges long-held beliefs about racial progress and racial equality.
A key idea of this theory is that people born into the majority culture have several unearned, largely invisible advantages in our society. These advantages are rooted in the historic and ongoing construction of racism. They include economic, social, and cultural benefits because most Americans identify as white.
Women’s studies scholar Peggy McIntosh first used the term “white privilege” in 1988. She defines it as the “unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people who are white, often without their conscious awareness.”
When you read a magazine, watch TV or movies, or go to an event, do you ever feel like the people in the images, stories, or conversations don’t look like you? Do you find yourself able to move through the world with relative ease without constantly worrying about how others perceive you? If so, you may be experiencing the phenomenon of white privilege. You can learn more about white privilege by reading Peggy McIntosh’s article, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” or Debby Irving’s, “Waking Up White.” You can recognize and challenge these inherent advantages by engaging in thoughtful discussions with other diverse people.
Racism is a system of power that involves categorizing and ranking people based on skin color. This ranking devalues and disempowers racial groups perceived as inferior while it privileges people who belong to the dominant group. It also unfairly allocates desirable societal opportunities and resources to the dominant group. These conditions negatively impact the physical and mental health of many people.
Researchers have found that whites who consciously believe in equality often unconsciously act in racist ways, particularly in ambiguous circumstances. For example, in a job interview where a candidate’s qualifications are somewhat unclear, whites favor their candidates over those of other races. This is known as aversive racism.
Whites who experience aversive racism may develop mental health problems as a result. For example, studies show that racial discrimination is associated with depression. This is probably because participating in racial discrimination leads to feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. It also undermines self-esteem and confidence.
In addition, being the target of a biased stereotype can be highly stressful and traumatic. It can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, which in turn can cause a variety of physical symptoms. For instance, it can reduce immune function and increase the risk of heart disease. It also increases the likelihood of substance abuse and mental illness.
Our minds are wired to resist information that challenges our existing beliefs. This is why so many people reject the evidence that racism exists. It is also why it is so important to provide people with strategies and resources for confronting racism.
Most Whites live in isolated communities, so they are inexperienced about their Black neighbors and rely on cultural associations that substitute for more individualized impressions of the lives of Black Americans. These perceptions reflect structural patterns of racial injustice, such as race-status associations that link Black status to incompetence. These associations co-vary with feeling thermometer ratings of interracial bias, social dominance orientation, meritocracy beliefs, hierarchy-maintaining hiring, and policy preferences.
As a result, systemic racism is reflected in predictable patterns of interpersonal behavior that convey disrespect and distrust. This is especially evident in racial discrimination when people of a dominant group believe the myths and misinformation about their oppressed peers and behave as though they are true. This is known as internalized racism. It is the most dangerous form of racism because it enables a dominant group to sustain power and privilege while maintaining racist attitudes and behavior. The good news is that it can be overcome.