Racism — How Definitions Often Mislead and Misrepresent

Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith
7 min readAug 14, 2023

It appears there is always something missing within the many contradictions that white supremacism and Racism present to the nation and the world, yet hidden within the normal, neutral, and natural experiences of everyday people to the point of nonexistence. Much like the minuscule particles only recognized inside the quantum realm, the kind that exists and does not exist at the same time, such is the nature of white supremacism and Racism. For Black people who experience white supremacism daily on a spectrum of vile micro and macro aggressions, and Racism on its spectrum of denial and discrimination; and the white people who do not, this push-pull examination within the realities of each is as mesmerizing as I imagine watching tiny particles dance in and out of existence, here, there, everywhere, and then simultaneously not.

Over the generations, the subject of Racism has been diluted and rendered into abstraction oblivion so much so that the definitions provided by most dictionaries offer their readers opportunities to be Racist no matter their race. Indeed, Merriam-Webster, which touts itself as “America’s most trusted dictionary,” defines Racism as:

“a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” [1]

This apparent convolution of definitions takes the institutional aspects of an actual structurally based system completely out and relegates Racism to a simple belief where differences in race, as in anyone with a race, if different, can produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. If this confuses the reader, that is because it is meant to. Race by definition can be considered the fundamental determinant of traits and capacities. Stated another way, Race is any group that humans are often divided into based on physical traits, regarded as common among people of shared ancestry.[2] The other portion of the definition relates to white supremacism itself, therefore, there are two definitions within the one and neither explains Racism. So what is Racism?

Racism is fundamentally the systematic subjugation within established institutions in the U.S. through structurally designed discrimination and denial of equality, equity, opportunity, and…

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Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith

Anti-Racism Essayist & Educator offering discussions about Race, Racism, White Supremacy and the language used, from perspectives not ordinarily considered.