Because I know the R-word freaks everybody out, let’s go about defining it too, because I mean something very specific when I use it. Racism refers to a system of hierarchy based on the belief that one race is superior to all others. Most often, and as is definitely the case in the United States, this manifests as both a collective social more and an individual belief. When combined with power – which is usually economic but can manifest in other ways – it becomes institutionalized. 

Institutionalized racism is the way that belief becomes ingrained and reinforced in societal organizations, such as government, education, the judicial system, economics, and media (just to name a few).

Individual racism is a set of personal conscious or unconscious beliefs that assume one race is superior to all others. It is important to note that individual racism can be held by both the dominant and the oppressed person, but only in relation to the oppressed person. In other words, in the United States, where whiteness is held as the highest rank on the hierarchical system, white people cannot be victims of racism. So-called reverse racism is just not a thing, people. However, people of color may hold internalized racist views about their own race, and they may hold hierarchically racist beliefs about members of other groups (i.e., prejudice).

Systemic racism is the ways in which these types of racism work together to directly impact BIPOC on a large scale and privilege whites in the United States. 

These qualities converge to create good white racists. First, good white racists are people who have been assigned the racial identity of whiteness. Second, good white racists are people who benefit from that assignment in a social system that privileges whiteness. Third, good white racists are generally nice people who intellectually do not approve of racist behaviors but who practice them anyway. Fourth, good white racists are – for a time, at least – unaware of the ways they benefit from and perpetuate racist systems that privilege them. Finally, good white racists generally respond with defensiveness when they are confronted with their participation in racist systems, because they are more concerned (possibly obsessed) with two things: their own comfort and their own inherent goodness.

From “Good White Racist? Confronting Your Role in Racial Injustice” by Kerry Connelly – Westminster John Knox Press