In the summer of 2011, Eric Deggans, now NPR’s first full-time TV critic wrote an interesting piece in the St. Petersburg Times clarifying the difference between prejudice and racism.
I’ve often found Deggan’s view on prejudice and race simple and thought-provoking. According to him, prejudice is something that you observe in the moment. “You are walking home and cross the street to avoid an individual because you fear a mugging. Racism is internalizing as a core value the idea that some races are superior or subordinate to others,” he says.
We often use the word racism incorrectly when we prejudge someone because of their race or color. Someone might prejudge another individual but she/he may not believe that any race is superior to one another and cannot be called a racist.
“Many times when talk turns to a suspicion of prejudice, the word racism is used, incorrectly and unfairly,” Deggans says. We have our own prejudices and a single mistake doesn’t equal racism. However, a long history of prejudice will definitely make us a racist.
Prejudice is everywhere. The only way we can sort this out is by being vulnerable and engaging in honest conversations with one another.