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WasCy's avatar

What are the most damaging forms of racism?

Asked by WasCy (10100points) February 16th, 2011

I liked the question about subtle forms of racism, but getting away from how subtle different types of racism are (and I think it’s pretty well established that it’s a hard thing to root out of ourselves even when we dearly want to do that), what forms of racism are most damaging?

You can feel free to describe who is damaged, too. Is the racist damaged? (I think so, whether he does or not.) Is society damaged, and how? (I think it’s obvious, but I’m interested in others’ opinions.)

Obviously the targets of racism are hurt by the inability to participate fully in societies and interactions they might like to join, but what are the worst forms of racism that still exist? The only forms of racism I’m familiar with are the ones I have seen or read about in North America, Europe and Australia, but don’t feel like you need to limit yourself to that discussion, either.

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20 Answers

everephebe's avatar

Genocide, and slavery. What “Americans” did to the natives.

WasCy's avatar


Oh, yeah. What a glaring omission from the question. I meant to say “the most damaging forms that are still prevalent”. And I realize that your answer may still stand.

everephebe's avatar

@WasCy I originally had question marks in my response at first because I thought you must not be including those biggies.

Pattijo's avatar

The one that stands out the most to me , is the name calling . It can cut like a knife

tinyfaery's avatar

The most damaging form of racism is that which calls itself otherwise. Insisting that legitimate issues are simply forms of political correctness or that we should/do live in colorblind society is a form of this. Subtle forms, therefore, might be the most damaging. At least overt racism doesn’t cloak itself in self-righteous individualism.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think a very dangerous and covert type of racism is that which continues to reinforce the feeling of victimhood. Instead of empowering people to do for themselves, they are encouraged to rely on the government or philanthropic organizations to do for them. Often this is because looking after minority groups is big business and very lucrative not only for those outside the target group but often more affluent and educated members of the target group have a vested interest in perpetuating the system as it is.

Obviously this is not true in all cases but it too often occurs.

The old line about give a guy a fish and he eats tonight. Teach him how to fish and he can feed his family for years to come.

I am in Australia but judging from the news it is not unique to this country.

coffeenut's avatar

Political Correctness

iamthemob's avatar

I think my answer is similar to what I said in the other thread and what @mattbrowne points to: institutional racism.

Blatant forms of personal racism are easy to deal with. When racism is adopted as policy, either in effect or on the face, the harm is widespread.

Of course, I think close to that is the racism that results when people use “political correctness” as a shield.

Harold's avatar

The worst type of racism is to vilify a majority group for criticising a minority, but congratulate the minority for vilifying the majority. Reverse racism is the worst kind because it is not ackowledged as such.

tinyfaery's avatar

Yep. Poor white people. Boo hoo.

Harold's avatar

@psychocandy – and that is exactly the type of ignorant @#$% I am referring to…..................

iamthemob's avatar

@Harold – The problem is that we have to look at harm in terms of the magnitude, the potential for causing damage to actual people, it’s pervasiveness, whether or not it actually decreases the quality of life, etc. ... Therefore, it’s difficult to conceive of this as among the most damaging forms of racism (it may, however, belong in the “most subtle” thread)...and claims that it does are almost guaranteed to bring all of that to mind and elicit comments like that of @psychocandy.

Unfortunately though, @psychocandy, he’s right – that statement was, unfortunately, kind of racist when you think about it…

Harold's avatar

@iamthemob – yes, I agree. It is a fact that reverse racism is causing all you mention to majority groups. People deserving of university places are left out because there have to be spots reserved for minority groups, whether they deserve them or not. I was talking to an associate a few weeks ago, who was refused service and physically thrown out of a shop in a Middle Eastern enclave in Sydney because he was Anglo. Can you imagine that being tolerated if it happened the other way around? A recent article in our daily morning newspaper highlighted the youth gangs beginning to dominate areas of the city. Almost every one was Middle Eastern or Pacific Islander based. They are making it unsafe for anyone to go out at night, or even in the daytime. These gangs are destroying our way of life, and threatening our safety. The police are powerless to stop it, because they are accused of racism if they try.

I have no problem with any racial group, provided they don’t do these things. I have friends who are Middle Eastern, Asian and black. I object to behaviours that damage our way of life, and then we are accused of racism when we point it out.

iamthemob's avatar


Ahh, the “Affirmative Action” myth. You know, I tried to meet you half-way on this one, but I don’t think you quite understand how affirmative action actually works in the University context (well, I’m in the U.S. – so at least you’re not describing it here). But really – all that “police can’s stop the gangs because they’ll be accused of being racist”? And then classifying them by race based on something that you just read? One thing? And the gangs are protected because of their racial minority?

I’m going to add that the most damaging forms of racism include the “Some of my best friends are [insert minority here]” kinds.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Harold – you might as well give up, they will never allow themselves to get it. Here is the rule, racism by whites against anyone else is abhorrent, and there are no exceptions.

Racism against white people (and where I live it happens constantly and pervasively) is perfectly alright because the perpetrators, whatever it is politically correct to call them are disenfranchised and therefore righteous.

I find this to be extremely damaging because it makes a lot of white people who would not otherwise care one way or the other, resentful and biased. It is increasing the divide instead of narrowing it. Not to mention exacerbating the theory of victimhood. Somehow some people just don’t get this and I can’t imagine in what isolated sort of circumstances they live in order to stay so naive.

When did affirmative action become a myth?

iamthemob's avatar


Affirmative action is not a myth. But there is the affirmative action myth. @Harold lays it out above. I really have not seen anyone, at any time, point to any statistics of any significance – or even try to – that showed that (1) white people were not getting into college because of affirmative action – it’s always stated as a fact (please note that I said college – whether or not we get into a particular school ends up being a complex decision you know) or (2) as a standard of affirmative action that people are being admitted because of their race.

It’s the idea that because people take race into account in admission when they consider applications in order to create a diverse student body, it’s racist. Of course, no…affirmative action programs are enacted in a manner so that they cannot create “quotas” or accept people solely due to their race (such programs were struck down by the Supreme Court). The reaction is a gut one.

I don’t know where you live, but I doubt that racism against white is prevalent. I doubt that because I doubt that it’s become such that whites are paid less. That whites can’t get jobs. That whites go to worse schools. Etc. etc.

It’s not extremely dangerous – because I can guarantee you that someone who wouldn’t care one way or another who becomes resentful and biased against an entire race because they were treated a certain way by members of that race would be inclined to do so anyway…they were probably waiting for an excuse.

The problem, of course, is that you’re arguing that it’s dangerous because it turns the people that are affected by it into racists. You may be right, but who the hell has an excuse to be racist? I have to work really, really, really hard not to hate Christians because of what they do every day in the news, in their churches, and in the legislature to try to limit my rights. But I don’t. It would be so easy.

When white people get bitter because they have experiences that represent a backlash against racism, I get it. But to say that it should change their worldview, when they know what the state of this country was just 50 years ago and remains today for most racial minorities,...well, you’re right – I’ll never “get” that.

Thank the lord.

Harold's avatar

I think what is causing the misunderstanding here is that the political landscape in the US is probably very different than what it is here. @rooeytoo seeing things the way that I do is no accident. I work in the tertiary sector, and know for a fact that this happens. Of course I can’t give references etc for privacy reasons.

I understand that blacks in America have had a history of discrimination- I get that. I have no problem with absolute equality. The same goes for aboriginals here. There is no doubt that they were mistreated in the past. I believe they deserve equal rights in all things.

What I mentioned about the gangs here is fact, not just newspaper stories. I used to live in one of the areas worst affected by it, and have seen it myself. I don’t expect you to understand the situation here any more than I understand yours.

The point I am trying to make is that when the wrongs of the past are over-corrected, it becomes racism in reverse. I understand that this is unpopular, but popularity and fact are rarely intimately related.

iamthemob's avatar

@Harold – I have no problem with the idea that the phenomenon you describe is possible, indeed does happen. I prefer to think of it as racism, though – I’m equal opportunity when it comes to calling racists racists. ;-)

But, I can’t see it as the “most damaging.” That’s where the disconnect is here I think. As I mentioned, it’s problematic, and I think it should be recognized, but it’s a relatively recent phenomenon to be calling it the “most damaging.”

rooeytoo's avatar

@iamthemob – I guess how damaging one finds it to be depends on which side of the fence one is on. Very subjective to say the least.

And unless the climate has changed dramatically in the USA in the last 12 years (and judging from what I read, it has not) there are many examples there as well.

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