In the United States, the most powerful ethnic group is white people. I don’t think anyone seriously objects to this observation. As such, and I hate to inform my white friends of the fact, but only white people can truly be racist. Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans or other ethnic groups simply aren’t powerful enough to practice racism.
Now, if it makes you feel better, ethnic minorities can be prejudiced, narrow-minded, hateful, intolerant, or all the other delightful traits that go into racism. But they can't actually be racist, because they lack the requisite power.
One thought I have here is that when I was growing up we used the word prejudice and bigot to describe someone who didn't like another person or group due to their color, race or any other physical factor. I don't recall ever hearing the words racist or racism. Perhaps it was due to where I lived or perhaps the words have only become big in the recent years... or perhaps the media hounds on them to death.
Here are the definitions found in at Dictionary.com.
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.Origin:
1865–70; < F racisme.
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.
rac'ist adj. & n. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
- Discrimination or prejudice based on race.
Here is where the dictionary starts to get into white or black..
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third EditionCultural Dictionary -racism definition
The belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them. In the United States, racism, particularly by whites against blacks, has created profound racial tension and conflict in virtually all aspects of American society. Until the breakthroughs achieved by the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, white domination over blacks was institutionalized and supported in all branches and levels of government, by denying blacks their civil rights and opportunities to participate in political, economic, and social communities.
And then there's the word bigot...
a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.Origin:Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.
1590–1600; < MF (OF: derogatory name applied by the French to the Normans)
n. One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
And then there's this...
Word History: Bigots may have more in common with God than one might think. Legend has it that Rollo, the first duke of Normandy, refused to kiss the foot of the French king Charles III, uttering the phrase bi got, his borrowing of the assumed Old English equivalent of our expression by God. Although this story is almost surely apocryphal, it is true that bigot was used by the French as a term of abuse for the Normans, but not in a religious sense. Later, however, the word, or very possibly a homonym, was used abusively in French for the Beguines, members of a Roman Catholic lay sisterhood. From the 15th century on Old French bigot meant "an excessively devoted or hypocritical person." Bigot is first recorded in English in 1598 with the sense "a superstitious hypocrite."
Notice how racism is mentioned alongside the United States while bigot is more of a French/English thing. Neither word has a particularly pleasant ring to it but I have always found that a bigot is one of the most hateful individuals who bases his reasons for such hatred on, what he perceives, as fact (unfounded opinion). A true racist is just an ignorant fool who doesn't know why he's better than someone else... he just is.
I have felt prejudice in my life and it was brought on by a wrongful act of which I was a victim. It is something I have dealt with, confronted and banished from who I am today. I do not feel what I felt back then, some 30 years ago now, but I can tell you I felt I was justified in feeling what I felt. I did not consider myself to be a bigot or a racist... but I did feel a prejudice towards men of a certain group. No, I will not mention that group here because that's not going to help. What is necessary is stating that sometimes people feel the way they do for a reason and they need help getting passed the issue and letting themselves heal.
If on the other hand a person is just an ignorant fool who dislikes others simply because he wants to dislike others, that person doesn't need healing... he needs a trip some remote island away from people.
Individuals who hate for the sake of hating and pass that thought process and hatred to their offspring are some of the worst offenders of bigotry and racism. They keep hatred alive because they can't just be human and let others be human.