Racism can take many forms, but not all forms are immediately recognizable. By understanding the different ways racism can manifest, we can understand the best ways to combat it as individuals and as a community.

When we talk about racism, the examples that come to mind for most people are often overt forms of racism – slurs, hate crimes, anti-immigrant propaganda, and more. However, racism can manifest in many different ways, and some forms are harder to recognize than others. By learning to identify where and how different types of racism can manifest, we can better understand how to unlearn our own biases and work to undo the racist ideology built into the foundations of our country.

Internalized Racism

Graphic describing Internalized Racism

Internalized racism is when a person believes negative messages about their own, and other’s, cultures and races. All racism is harmful, but this one is especially toxic; internalizing this oppression results in self-devaluation, resignation, and feelings of hopelessness. Examples include:

Interpersonal Racism

Graphic describing Interpersonal Racism

Interpersonal racism (also called Personally Mediated racism) occurs when a person's conscious or subconscious racial bias influences their interactions and perceptions of other people. This is the form of racism that most people are familiar with, as it is one of the most overt forms, and can range from microaggressions to the use of slurs or even physical violence. This bias is often informed by stereotypes and misinformation, and results in a lack of respect, suspicion, avoidance, and dehumanization of people because of their race. Some examples of interpersonal racism include:

Institutionalized Racism

Graphic describing Institutionalized Racism

Institutionalized racism (also called Systemic racism) refers to the implicit or explicit rules and regulations within an organization that discriminate against marginalized communities. Often, this manifests as bias for or against certain groups of people because of stereotypes based on their perceived race or ethnicity. Here are some examples found within specific institutions:

Structural Racism

Graphic describing Structural Racism

Structural Racism refers to biased laws, policies, or practices that restrict people’s access to services, opportunities, and resources because of their race. This structural bias has compounding effects on people’s families, employment, mental and physical health, interactions with the criminal justice system, and beyond. Specific examples include:

Though it’s easier to view racism as an external force we must continually fight against, it’s important that we recognize there are some forms that manifest within. Racism must be solved as a community, but we must also confront and consider our own internal biases as well in order to create lasting change.

Take collective action for equity and learn more about structural and systematic racism at YWCA's upcoming Stand Against Racism Event.

Ana Rodriguez-Knutsen

Ana Rodriguez-Knutsen is the Content Specialist for YWCA's Marketing & Editorial team. From fiction writing to advocacy work, Ana works with an intersectional mindset to uplift and amplify the voices of underrepresented communities.


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