Youth Gathering Preparations: Racism in Our Lives

We’re getting so close to leaving for our trip! This week we focused on understanding a few different levels of racism and the roles they can play in our lives, communities, and the world around us. We watched this video that helped to explain the privilege that can be associated with racial and socioeconomic discrimination. Continue reading for a brief recap of what we learned!

Everyone has experienced or witnessed prejudice and discrimination, and it comes in a variety of forms (not just racial). The word prejudice can be defined as a pre-judgment, or forming of an opinion, not based on actual experience. Unlike intuition, or gut-instinct, prejudice is socially formed by what we hear about or are taught about “the other.” Although prejudice is most often used in reference to race, or racism, there are many different people we pre-judge in America, sometimes without even realizing it.

In order to enforce prejudice, we use stereotypes to help emphasize traits we associate with different populations of people. Discrimination occurs when we use our prejudice and stereotypes to make actual decisions, especially to the disadvantage of those who are different.

We reviewed some short stories which were great examples of racial conflict from one person to another. This is how we usually view and talk about racism, as an act or set of behaviors, at an Interpersonal Level. However, racism can be expressed at many different levels in our society. Here are the four levels we try to acknowledge in the ELCA.

1. INTERNALIZED RACISM is racism within individuals, toward themselves. When a person’s self identification with a particular racial group enforces ideas of superiority or inferiority.

2. INTERPERSONAL RACISM is racism between individuals (the most apparent of the four). When racist actions are inflicted upon a particular person because of the color of their skin.

3. INSTITUTIONAL RACISM is racism within institutions and systems of power (e.g., schools, city government, congregations, etc.) When social institutions enforce policies that put a particular racial group at a disadvantage.

4. STRUCTURAL RACISM is racism among institutions all across society (e.g., the American education system, history (as it is written), societal racial norms). When large-scale forces combine to create standards defined by race.

While the different levels of racism affect everyone in America, they do not affect all groups equally. Structural racism works against all people of color. However, because of the effects of privilege, those who are white-skinned avoid being disadvantaged by structural racism, and actually benefit from it.

White privilege is a term that indicates the benefits and privileges a white-skinned person accumulates in a society that is set up to reward white people. These advantages and disadvantages move beyond social class and income level, and have many different, and often unnoticed effects, in all of our daily lives.

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