What is racism? What is prejudice? Aren’t they the same thing?

First let’s be clear about what racism is and what racism is not. According to Sociologist Edward Bonilla-Silva, “racism is defined as a combination of prejudice and power that allows the dominant race to institutionalize its dominance at all levels in a society.”(1) The important thing to take away from this definition is that there is a difference between prejudice (intentionally or unintentionally treating others negatively because of their skin color or other group-based physical characteristics) and racism.

Put simply: Racism is prejudice plus power.

It is not simply not liking a certain group but also having the power (economic, social, political, etc.) to turn your dislike for that group into discriminatory laws, discriminatory hiring practices, etc. For a more thorough discussion see “What the heck is institutional racism?”

Back to the beginner’s guide to racial inequality.