Social Sciences

Start Free Trial

What is the difference between racism and racialism?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

“Racialism” is a word that is used differently by different people.  There are many people who simply use it as a synonym for racism.  However, it also has a different meaning.

Racism, of course, is the idea that different races are better or worse than other races.  It can take the form of thinking that your race is superior to other races.  It can also take the form of saying that some other race is worse than others even if you do not say that yours is superior.  An example of racism, then, would be if you believe that Africans as a race are lazier and more prone to criminal activity than white people are.

Racialism can be a different idea.  It can refer to the idea that different races have different attributes that can be identified objectively but that these differences do not mean that one is superior to the other.  To draw an analogy, parents know that their children have different attributes and yet they do not prefer one to the other.  Racialism, in theory, can be similar to this.  It can hold that different races are different but that no race is better than another race.  An example of racialism, then, would be if you believe that black people are inherently more musical than people of other races.

Again, not all people use “racialism” in this way.  However, this is what “racialism” means when it is used in a way other than as a synonym for racism.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the difference between discrimination and racism?

The difference between these two is that racism is an attitude while discrimination is an action.  The two can go together, but it is not necessary that they do.

Racism is the attitude that someone else is inferior because of their race.  You do not have to act on this attitude; you just have to feel it.  By contrast, discrimination is when you treat someone differently because of their race.  You do not have to feel that they are inferior.  For example, if you worked in a place that would not serve African Americans as a matter of policy, you could feel that African Americans were equal to whites (and therefore hate the policy) but keep on discriminating so as to keep your job.

Racism is a feeling, discrimination is an action.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on