"Only White People can be Racist: What does Power have to do with Prejudice?"

Pooja Sawrikar, Ilan Barry Katz


Social researchers and activists who use the sociological definition of racism – that 'Racism = Prejudice + Power' – generally aim to attain racial equality by equalising differences in social power among racial groups. However, this definition can be taken to extreme when the role of social power is given disproportionately more weight than the role prejudice in explaining the occurrence and entrenchment of racism in society, such as assertions that racism is synonymous with White supremacy. Such a definition is logically flawed, demonstrates reverse racism, is disempowering for individuals from all racial groups who strive for racial equality, and absolves those who do not. We examine how the recent literature on cultural competency may provide a more effective strategic framework for reducing racism. Cultural competency is a move away from ethnocentrism and towards respect and value for cultural difference, with no racial group treated as a reference point around which the discourse on race relations revolves. In short, by properly acknowledging the role of prejudice, and not exclusively focusing on power, all racial groups can be better empowered to take responsibility for protecting the human right to racial equality.


Racism; Prejudice; Social power; White supremacy; Racial equality; Cultural competency

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/ccs.v2i1.1075