Racism vs. Racialism

Since I’ve been throwing the terms around a bit lately, I thought I’d make the distinction.

Racism is:

A belief or doctrine that inherent hierarchical differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race  is superior.

Racialism is:

A belief in the existence and significance of racial differences, but not necessarily that any hierarchy between the races exists. Racialists typically reject claims of racial superiority.

Another way to put it is to say that a racist believes that interracial relationships are fundamentally wrong.  A racialist, however, may simply prefer to date people within his or her own race because they believe other races will be incompatible.

The reason I make this distinction is that I believe racism is currently on the fringes of social thought, while racialism remains prevalent in the mainstream.  What we call institutionalized racism would more accurately be described as institutionalized racialism.

At any rate, both are dangerous–to varying degrees–and must be combated with information, temperance, and understanding. 🙂


Author: therealkenjones

writer, artist, wannabe photographer, recovering Southern Californian...

17 thoughts on “Racism vs. Racialism”

  1. Hmmmm… I’ll have to think about this one more. I’d say that institutional racism is still inherent in the idea that, for example, affirmative action results in unqualified persons obtaining positions but that hiring one’s buddy for the job is perfectly acceptable. Implicit in that is the idea that one’s friend is a superior candidate but that the person selected under affirmative action is not.

    I may have other comments to clarify later..

    1. I agree 100%. The only distinction I’m making here is that a racialist doesn’t necessarily believe that one race is better than the other, but rather that one race may more compatible than the other in say a specific workplace or level of leadership. It’s a “one of us” mentality that I think nepotism falls right in line with.

      The difference between racism and racialism is very similar in effect, but may be very different in how they are resolved.

      Racism<Racialism<racial enlightenment. 🙂

    2. re: hiring one’s buddy.
      one would suppose that the hired person is a relatively known entity as opposed to a complete stranger. if a complete stranger arrived with fantastic credentials then a sober person should give credence to the fact that the well qualified person could be better for the said business.
      also, why would racism/racialism necessarily have to be dangerous?
      forcing people with different worldviews, religion, race or politics, to live cheek by jowl, will always lead to conflict.
      one has to ask : who are the people that are promulgating multiculturalism , against common consent, with distress to all concerned?
      if people were allowed to live within their own enclaves, doing stuff that they are accustomed to and without interference from outside sources then the world would be a much more peaceful place.
      I ask again, why or even who?

    3. Greetin` n, the power name JESUS; I Believe theres 0ne race: HUMAN RACE ! Most privileged to be so BLESS. yet psychological your answer given a understanding to myself…thank you God bless You, phyliss

  2. i think racialsm is a reality for all us if the departure point is that its humanly impossible not to distingiuish one race from another. whereas racism has an immediate negative connotation where superiority issues, stereotyping and prejudice are at play.

    1. Good point I think a good example of this is how racial issues play out now as opposed to how they played out 20-30 years ago; what was acceptable to say openly, economic paths available to certain groups, etc. It’s also important to note that this model plays out not only in regards to race but also age, religion, gender, sexual identity, and to a somewhat lesser degree, sexual orientation.

      The fact is there is no evidence to suggest that race and individual potential for success is anything other than an arbitrary correlation. The truth is there are innumerable, complex, and subtle socioeconomic/cultural factors that have a demonstrably more palpable impact on a person’s potential and the realization of it.

      1. you know, threatening people just because they disagree with you is pretty ass-y behaviour, but I guess it’s your site. If you want to be a dick, go ahead.

  3. The way I look at racism is that it doesn’t necessarily involve hate, but that it does skew things in the favor of a particular group. For example, I was recently in one of the big box stores and I noticed there were shelves and shelves of white dolls of all kinds. Then on the bottom shelf there were two Black dolls. There were no Latina dolls, Asian dolls, or Native American dolls. The customer base at this particular store is pretty diverse, with Black and White customers in roughly the same numbers, a sizeable Latino customer base, and fewer Asian shoppers but still a good number of them. There was not necessarily any hate involved in the decision to order the dolls, where to shelve them, etc. It’s just despite evidence to the contrary, especially in this particular neighborhood, white people are seen as the ones with economic power and/or the people for whom commodities should be readily available. Racism might or might not involve hate. For me, racism is not limited to just the belief that one’s own race is superior. I could have strolled into that store thinking that I as a Black woman was superior to all white people, but I would still only have two dolls to select from if I wanted to get a doll that looked like a child in my family.

  4. Racism is the hatred or belief in inherent superiority of one race over another, whereas racialism is the acknowledgement of biological and cultural differences between the races. Although the former has no scientific merit, the latter has much empirical support. “there is no evidence to suggest that race and individual potential for success is anything other than an arbitrary correlation.” “Individual” is the key word here. There are always outliers. As a whole, there are measurable mental and physical differences between the races. Take the NFL as a microcosm of the US. QB is arguably the most difficult job in the world to be elite at, not because of the physical aspect, but because of the need to mentally process complex variables quickly. Out of the dozen or so tier-one QB’s, only R. Wilson is (half) black. This correlates with every IQ study ever done in regards to race. Mr. Wilson is the outlier. The vast majority of RB’s, WR’s, and DB’s are black because of the fast-twitch muscle development necessary for success at those positions. TE’s, LB’s, and lineman, however, rely more on muscle mass, where than is no significant difference between races. This is reflected in the racial makeup of those positions.

    Racial differences evolved due to environmental pressures. To deny this may be PC and make you feel better, but it doesn’t change that fact. Instead of truly celebrating diversity, we try to fit square pegs into round holes. Although it would be wrong to pigeonhole individuals, recognizing these truths is not in itself morally wrong or “dangerous”, as you suppose. On the contrary, deluding ourselves as a society that everyone (individually or as groups) has the same potential is destructive in the long run.

    1. IQ tests are not reliable arbiters of intelligence. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a scientist or academic who can clearly define what exactly intelligence even is. “IQ tests”determine aptitude at skills necessary for an industrial workforce. It has repeatedly been redesigned and re-calibrated to reflect contemporary standards. If the standard for measuring intelligence was different 50 years ago and will probably be different 50 years from now, what exactly is it measuring? It’s simply not an objective system, at least not in the way “racial realists” try to use it. Intelligence may very well be nothing more than a value judgment like “near” or “heavy”. Regardless, it’s dangerous at this point to give it much weight in assessing potential aptitude for a group or individual. We don’t know enough about it and there are too many other factors at play.

      Your correlation of IQ Tests to NFL QB aptitude is, frankly, a non sequitur. Malcolm Gladwell uses the example of adolescent hockey players and how they’re often selected based on when they were born because kids born early in the year tend to be a little bigger and more capable than kids born late in the year. The decision is entirely based on the fact that they’re a little older and more physically developed. Many players switch positions multiple times throughout their careers; sometimes based on ability, other times on their team’s need. There is no universal scientific method behind coaching decisions. How these decisions are made is a combination of metrics, projection, personality, scheme, compatibility, conventional wisdom, and sheer guess work. At best, it’s reliant on self reporting which still requires a deep dive into the underlying factors behind those decisions. What are the statistical rates of adolescent black football players, who aren’t particularly athletic (by NFL standards), being developed as pocket-passing QBs as opposed to being steered toward other positions like Offensive Line or Tight End? How does that compare to the development strategies toward white players with similar skill sets? A huge component of elite proficiency, perhaps the biggest, is repetition; time spent doing something. If white players of relatively average to low athletic ability are steered toward playing QB at an early age and given time to develop a pocket passing skill set (which is the most successful type for the NFL), it isn’t revelatory of any greater aptitude or ability in those white players; but rather of opportunity and experience. We would need to gather data on all these factors as well as the underlying culture and methodology behind them before we could start concluding anything. As it stands, your example is meaningless fluff, nothing more than arbitrary correlation.

      However, football does work well as a microcosm of society at large in that neither is an objective or neutral standard by which to measure intelligence. Both are loaded up with historical, social, economic, and cultural biases that are often times formed definitionally. In other words, it’s no coincidence that ethnic Europeans are more successful in a European or European-based society. This should not be any kind of measuring stick.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “square pegs in round holes.” Black CEO’s? White Rappers?

      And what do you mean by “truly celebrating diversity?” As opposed to what?

      Also, the last premise of your 2nd paragraph is a straw man. I never said everyone has the same potential or that there aren’t differences between groups of people. And I haven’t seen that as an overarching message in “society.” It’s one thing to say black people are less likely to go into engineering. It’s quite another to say black people lack the aptitude for engineering. If that’s your argument, by all means, publish. See how long that hypothesis holds up.

      1. I disagree with your assessment of IQ tests. On almost every intelligence test, the ability to recognize patterns (numeric and otherwise) is the key indicator of cognitive ability. No IQ test I’ve ever seen has displayed ‘cultural bias’. You are right, IQ test are indicative of “aptitude in classwork”. Those with high IQ’s will typically excel in the STEM fields, have a good grasp on their native language, and have a greater thirst for knowledge than those with lower IQ’s. The laws of physics, mathematics, etc. are universal, they are not subjective and the standards do not change. And civilization was built on these laws, so dismissing IQ as being arbitrary and inconsequential is wrong. Many studies have shown that IQ correlates with wealth, crime rates, life expectancy and other success/failure metrics. IQ is almost everything.

        Not buying your QB theory. There was truth to that 20 years ago, not now. Sports are the ultimate meritocracy and jobs and money are on the line. Your argument was good, but wrong.

        What I meant by “square peg in round holes” was, if we want a truly colorblind meritocracy, we should test kids’ cognitive abilities at age 6 and then direct them on a path that success for them is attainable. If I had a kid and he was fat, slow, and nonathletic, I wouldn’t encourage him to expect him to have a career in the NBA, no matter how much he wants to emulate Lebron. I’d tell him to have more realistic expectations and possibly pursue coaching. (I experienced a similar occurrence when my grandfather told me I’d never be big enough to play QB for the Dolphins when I was 10 or 11. Although it stung at the time, it did shape my thinking going forward. And guess what? Although I’m a good athlete, I’m 5’11” 177 lbs. He was right.) Telling kids they can be anything they want sets them up for disappointment. Most kids, regardless of their background, don’t have Barack Obama’s intellect. Test them early, educate accordingly.

        If you want/try to make/expect everybody to be the same, you are not ‘celebrating diversity’.

      2. To say that pattern recognition is the best indicator of cognitive ability is incredibly myopic. And I would argue that cognition is only one aspect of intelligence. Do IQ tests measure a very specific type of intelligence? Sure, from a very subjective standpoint. It’s like saying studying photographs of Zebras gives you an accurate understanding of life, a term, much like intelligence, you’d be hard pressed to find a consensus definition for.

        We have to remember that tests scores are also revelatory of how well you take tests, which can be arbitrary, and is aided significantly by the quality and degree of your education. To take it back to the sports analogy, how good you are at sports isn’t necessarily indicative of how athletic you are. So the laws of physics are objective, but being able to convey those laws in a standardized test isn’t objective at all. It’s one way to do it. But there are many ways to teach, to learn, and to communicate.

        As for the square pegs argument, I think this is the worst kind of social engineering. It’s a kind of intellectual eugenics which clearly would lend itself to generalization, stereotyping, and assumption. A prime example, the aforementioned Russell Wilson as well as Drew Brees and even Doug Flutie are all QBs under 6-feet tall who’ve had considerable success in the NFL. Their grandfathers, arguing as yours did, would have been wrong. And your grandfather being right has more to do with the fact that, by multiple orders of magnitude, the overwhelming majority of people, size and/or athleticism notwithstanding, simply wouldn’t make it in the NFL…at ANY position. The odds are that even if you were 6’5″ 220 lbs. and the all-city starting QB of your high school you weren’t going to play a down in the NFL. So, to your argument, rather than “steering” kids towards occupations that standardized testing advocates believe their aptitudes favor, a better approach would be to speak realistically about the obstacles people will face and need to overcome. Not being mathematically inclined doesn’t mean you can’t be an engineer; it just means you have to work harder at it than other people.

        I’m amused at how you can admit that I’ve made a good argument, but then dismiss it out of hand as being wrong without making any counterarguments to justify why you believe this. If your preconceived notion automatically supersedes any new information or arguments, then I think we’ve hit what Sam Harris calls “intellectual bedrock” as it seems there is no argument that will lead to concession much less convincing.

  5. At certain times there were up to 4 hominin species living side by side without mixing back. Humans turned up 200 000 years ago. 100 000 years ago the San split and lived as a separate but still Homo sapiens group. They suddenly became much smaller than the rest of humanity – who went north and became white, yellow and black skinned even though there was constant contact between the groups. The San, to this day, deliberately avoid mixing with the rest of humanity.

    There is a strong evolutionary drive behind the awareness of race which is never going to go away. Sometimes it manifests in the horror of the Nazi racial laws other times in the beautiful concept of uBuntu which does as much damage.

    What we have to do is accept racial awareness as a fact and know it creates prejudice. There are black people and white people, and contrary to liberal opinion, children notice colors and as an evolutionary principle they are negative to ‘others’.

    Once we accept our own racial awareness we can unbubble ourselves and learn that all humans are the same no matter what color. Then it comes down to a constant awareness to treat all humans the same. Only actions are important – not thoughts or emotions.

    I no longer see a difference between racialism and racism – on the street they have taken on the same meaning. No point in splitting hairs as it is all part of intellectual self-deception and dishonesty. Instead be aware and act correctly.

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