I'm white. I don't know how racism feels. I can't know because I'm not experiencing it. I only know what BIPoC (BIPoC stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) friends tell me from their experiences. So why do I want to write about Racism?

Motivation and Information

  1. It should not be the responsibility of BIPoC to explain racism to white people - dealing with all the discrimination is already bad enough. So white people should educate themselves.
  2. White people need to reflect on their privileges to understand all the racism-related power dynamics and to be an ally for BIPoC.
  3. The patterns of oppression inherent to racism repeat themselves in other forms of oppression like sexism, heteronormativism, and ableism. Understanding racism well helps understanding oppression in general.

To avoid asking BIPoC all those painful questions over and over, here are some book recommendations on racism:

book coverbook cover book cover

A Talk from Ijeoma Oluo:


Race does not exist, but race matters. (see e.g. here)

Something is about race IF a BIPoC says it's about race OR it affects BIPoC differently.

Racism is prejudice about race if it is reinforced by systems of power. (Racism is way more than what Nazis do.)

The big picture

Racism happens at many different levels and in many different forms. To understand the full impact of racism on individuals as well as on society, it's important to look at all of those. The different forms of racism (shown as boxes in the image below) have an impact on other forms of racism, reinforcing each other and thus creating a powerful system of oppression.

schema of self-reinforcing effects of racism

This pattern also applies to other dimensions of oppression like e.g.

I'll now focus on some of these forms of racism in more detail.

Individual Racism

Individual Racism is when one person has race-based prejudices against another person.

Open hate (in form of physical violence or verbal aggressions) is just one form of individual racism.

There are more subtle forms of individual racism that are less obvious and can stay undetected to those not directly affected but can hurt even more:

Implicit bias (unchecked believes) is another form of individual racism.

Microaggressions are small everyday situations, that can make the affected person think ”Am I too sensitive?”. Their effect can accumulate as they can happen repeatedly. Often, microaggressions are unintentionally delivered. This makes it even more important to learn about microaggressions so that we can stop hurting BIPoC in that way.

Examples of microaggressions:

Remember: you can not fully understand how racism feels if you are white so you can't judge how microaggressions feel.

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism is about racist practices carried out by governmental or societal institutions.

Here are some examples from the institution school:

... and from the asylum process in Germany:

Systemic Racism

Systemic Racism includes institutional racism but is also about discrimination outside of institutions at a societal level. It's about the equality of chances in society.

Some examples:

When there is no equality of chances, there are privileges - unearned benefits you get just for being part of a non-discriminated group.

The video "$100 Race" explains the effects of privileges.

The theory of Intersectionality explains the multiple dimensions of oppression (racism, sexism, classism, ...). Being oppressed in multiple dimensions is different from the sum of both, e.g. a black women experiences different forms of oppression from those experienced by black men or white women. Intersectionality is a way to build bridges between various communities fighting against oppression in various dimensions. It is not about winning the “I’m worst off”-battle.

Psychological Effects

All of the above forms of racism can lead to severe psychological damage and internalized racism.

Reflect your own Privileges

Privileges are unearned advantages and avoided struggles. From the perspective of the discriminated group, the privileges of the non-discriminated group are barriers that keep them from having equal chances to live a good life.

Here are some general examples of privileges:

And here some examples of privileges in the various dimensions of oppression:

Privileges are not something to be ashamed of but to be aware of.

Where to start?

schema of self-reinforcing effects of racism

How can we fight racism? Which of the forms of racism should we attack? All of them.

Where can I start?

These are notes from a short presentation which can be found here