What is internalized racism?
One definition, from Susan Lipsky states, ” (Internalized Racism)…gives rise to patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that result in discriminating, minimizing, criticizing, finding fault, invalidating, and hating oneself while simultaneously valuing the dominant culture.” According to this definition, dispelling racism from one’s own thinking is the priority for social justice and equality. Reflection on how we make choices, then act on those choices, is a difficult process. What’s apparent is that any expectation for the dominant culture to end racism never provides the intended result of equal pay, for equal work.
Minority cultures in America do not control of their choices. Where one lives, gets educated, and starts their family is dependent on historical standards of oppression. The work of anti-racism is set against a history of Euro-centric standards. Internalized racism is not blaming, or self-hatred, but the systemic acceptance of standards based in a dominant, male, white culture. Data from the Census Bureau related to race and earnings shows that most American workers, making $125,000 per year or more, are disproportionately white (5,147,415 out of 6,139,070 workers). A limited expression of internalized racism is clearly visible within these facts.
Standards that represent exclusive practices in education, and professional collaboration have weaknesses. Are people of color continually blamed for their oppression? Consider the level of minority incarceration that is currently greater in the United States, than elsewhere in the world. If we think critically while reflecting on the disproportionate numbers of minorities in the criminal justice system, it is apparent that their ability to become employed at a higher wage has been limited. Critical thinking to address empowerment of these groups has been focused on education. Education combats an unequal, systemic standard of living. There is still a need to examine an adherence to irrelevant criteria when developing anti-discrimination policy.
Access to educational achievement is a systemic response. The laws of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights are theoretical weapons to reduce barriers for minority groups in educational achievement. These systemic responses are not sustaining resources for minority groups. What happens when a Native American graduates with a professional degree, and finds herself in a workforce, where she is consistently singled out as the ‘token’ minority? When she seeks work in her field, there are no mentors to collaborate among on process reform. Unless this worker is empowered by the dominant culture to support other diverse candidates in their work; she must assimilate to the Euro-centric standards. To survive, she is forced to behave in a manner that does not change the current paradigm. Reflections around the effect of internalized racism can be undertaken by individuals; changing the imbalance of power is a community project.
Teachers Against Prejudice
Taking Action Against Racism in Higher Education
Women’s Theological Center – PDF