Camara Harell’s excerpt, “The Meaning and Impact of Racism,” addresses the distinct difference between prejudice and racism. Many people have a misconception of what racism is, and repeatedly use the two words interchangeably. Harell has provided a framework that explains the true definitions, and also explains what it takes to be labeled, by definition, a “racist.”
People generally confuse the meanings of prejudice and racism, and do not fully understand how to use each word in the proper manner. However, there is a huge difference in what each word means. Social psychologist, James Jones, describes prejudice as a “negative attitude toward a person or group based upon a social comparison process in which the individual’s own group is taken as the positive point of reference” (Jones, 1991). Prejudice is having preconceived judgment and an irrational hostility towards a group without having fair reasoning or adequate knowledge; it is a thought and opinion, and not necessarily an action upon that individual or group. Harell argues that it is “inappropriate to use the terms racism and prejudice synonymously” (1999). Racism is defined as using a force of power against an “inferior” racial group with the aid of an entire culture (Harell, 1999). It is neither an idea or notion, but rather the power and act upon suppressing a racial group.
Harell and Jones provide informative, intellectual reasoning that differentiates prejudice and racism. The main difference being that prejudice is mostly a thought and opinion, while racism is a verb and is the act of subjugating a group.
Harell, Camara. (1999). The Meaning and Impact of Racism. Manichean Psychology: Racism and the Minds of African Descent, pages 1-14. Jones, James. (1991). Racism: A Cultural Analysis of the Problem. In Black Psychology, 3d ed., ed. R. Jones, 609-36. Berkeley: Cobb and Henry.