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July 24, 2013

Racism in America Is Not Monochrome

Patrick W. Allen

Woven into the nation’s fabric since the inception of the Republic, racism is not about, nor solely dependent upon, skin color. It is, however, based clearly on ethnicity, culture and/or religious beliefs.


More to the point, racism in the United States is perpetrated by a vocal percentage of the population that choose profound ignorance and deliberate refusal to accept the ethnicity, culture and/or religious beliefs of another human being.


Broadly speaking, racism as it is generally understood has been fraudulently marketed by racism profiteers as one skin color against another. The flaw in this context is that racism is equally or more often visible and actively engaged within and among same-color constituencies. Using the term racism over and over again in the national discourse limits focus and policy discussions to a narrow band of conversation and action …color versus color.


For many, and most often attributed to conservatives, the easiest way to solve the problem of 'latent racism in American society' is to:

  1. Deny its existence, and then
  2. Indignantly proclaim that anyone who dares broach the topic is a "race-baiter."


Understanding the Differences: Very often, if not most often, terms like race and ethnicity are intermingled and confused with one another. Race and ethnicity are important concepts in the field of sociology, given that each plays a large role in everyday human interactions and sociologists want to study how, why, and what the outcomes are of these interactions.


The distinction between race and ethnicity is considered highly problematic. Ethnicity is often assumed to be the cultural identity of a group from a nation state, while race is assumed to be biological and/or cultural essentialization of a group hierarchy of superiority/inferiority related to their biological constitution. It is assumed that, based on power relations, there exist 'racialized ethnicities' and 'ethnicized races.'[1]


What many, if not most, consider and refer to as racism is actually ethnicity. An ethnic group is a social category of people who share a common culture, such as a common language, a common religion, or common norms, customs, practices, and history.[2] Racism is an act of self-segregation…the self-imposed separation of one’s self from the ethnicity of another, regardless of skin color.


Dissecting the Differences: Scholastically speaking, there are five primary colors into which the population is sub-divided: Red, Brown, White, Black and Yellow…ordered by their historically assumed appearance and/or arrival. If you conduct a word association test, asking the subject to associate one of the primary population colors with the word “racism,” the most probable and generally expected results would be:


Who Is Racist Against You?













Do you see a pattern? That pattern is consistent with both marketing programs and practical application. Based on the above responses, Caucasians (white) in the United States are generally considered the largest constituency of racists, albeit based primarily on color-to-color metrics. The fallacy with this manner of reasoning is the fact that each of the primary population color constituencies is racist in their own right when defined using the context of ethnicity, culture and/or religious beliefs.


Examples and information regarding same/similar color “racism” or self-imposed segregation are:


Red on Red: Because the Apaches were culturally violent, they lost the more passive Pueblo Indians as allies. They also fought with the Comanche Indians for similar and other reasons.


Brown on Brown: The term “Hispanic” comes from a Latin word for Spain "Hispania" and which later became known as "España." It refers to the Spanish-speaking people of North, Central, and South America whose first language is Spanish and was colonized by Spain.


Latino is shortened from the Spanish phrase Latino Americano, "Latin American" thus narrowing the scope of meaning to Central and South America, and Spanish speaking Caribbean Islands. Additionally…


The term "Hispanic" was first adopted by the United States government during the administration of Richard Nixon. It has been used in the U.S. Census since 1980. "Hispanic" is used more often in states such as Florida and Texas.


The government adopted the term "Latino" because they did not have an inclusive term to identify and segregate the mixed white with black and native "mestizo or mulato people of Central and South America.


White on White: Irish immigrants were looked upon with disdain, if not outright hatred, by non-Irish Caucasians. They were sent by the thousands as general laborers in coal mines and the building of America’s railroads.


Black on Black: While many blacks do not discriminate against each other by color, this attitude is not unique. The fact that blacks often treat other blacks differently, based on the shade of their skin, is an open secret in the black community.


Movie director Spike Lee was criticized for being so honest about colorism in his 1987 movie "School Daze." In the film, light-skinned and dark-skinned girls faced off and called each other names like "tar baby," "Barbie doll," "wannabe white" and "jigaboo."


The term colorism is more often understood and contextually used within the Black constituency.


Historians say the friction between blacks of different shades began during slavery because light-skinned blacks, often the children of slaves and their white masters, got better treatment.


"They were the ones who maybe worked in the house, as opposed to the darker-skinned Africans who worked in the fields who were beaten more readily," explains historian Anthony Browder.


Lighter skin"…began to be associated with privilege and it became associated with beauty," said Marita Golden, author of Don't Play in the Sun: One Woman's Journey Through the Color Complex.


After slavery, skin color continues to divide blacks into self-imposed segregation from one another. Light-skinned blacks formed exclusive clubs, mirroring the elitist amenities and services provided at white-only private clubs.


Yellow on Yellow: As the nation was finding its footing, adding states and managing territories, Japanese and Chinese immigrants gelled in a similar relation as what exists between oil and water. By-n-large the Japanese were given the flexibility and freedom to enter into commerce, while Chinese immigrants suffered much the same fate as the Irish.


Summary: Racism in America is not monochrome the way racism profiteers would have you believe. It’s all around us, every one of us, but primarily driven by ethnicity, culture and religious beliefs.


While religion has not been discussed with much detail in this column, religious racism is as equally prevalent in our society as other forms of racism. In a recent column, a Jewish columnist, hiding his words behind the facade of Muslim Brotherhood teachings, posited the notion that Islam and the Muslim religion “…is a malignancy spreading insidiously through our society.”


These words, penned by a baby boomer Jew, old enough to understand racism and religious persecutions conducted against his ancestors during World War II. It is beyond astonishing that this Jew, who is afforded constitutional rights regarding freedom of speech and to practice the religion of his choosing, advocates denying those same rights to others…that’s racism.



[1] Grosfoguel, Ramón (September 2004). "Race and Ethnicity or Racialized Ethnicities? Identities within Global Coloniality"

[2] Sociology Of Race And Ethnicity:


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