Racism is discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity. Today, the use of the term “racism” does not easily fall under a single definition. This collection focuses on racist ideologies that can become manifest in many aspects of social life. Racism can be present in social actions, practices or political systems (e.g., apartheid) that support the expression of prejudice or aversion in discriminatory practices. Associated social actions may include nativism, xenophobia, otherness, segregation, hierarchical ranking, supremacism and related social phenomena.
Sociologists, in general, recognize “race” as a social construct. This means that, though the concepts of race and racism are based in observable biological characteristics, any conclusions drawn about race on the basis of those observations are heavily influenced by cultural ideologies. Racism, as an ideology, exists in a society at both the individual and the institutional level.
While much of the research and work on racism in the last half-century or so has concentrated on “white racism” in the Western world, historical accounts of race-based social practices can be found across the globe. Thus, racism can be broadly defined to encompass individual and group prejudices and acts of discrimination that result in material and cultural advantages conferred on a majority or dominant social group. So-called “white racism” focuses on societies in which white populations are the majority or dominant social group. In studies of these majority white societies, the aggregate of material and cultural advantages is usually termed “white privilege.”
In both sociology and economics, the outcomes of racist actions are often measured by the inequality in income, wealth, net worth and access to other cultural resources, such as education, between racial groups. Cazenave and Maddern (1999) define racism as “... a highly organized system of ‘race’-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/‘race’ supremacy.”