Posted by: morgan1965 | July 17, 2010

What is the Meaning of Racism?

The term “racism” is often heard in private and public conversations. But, what does this word mean? Let me be quick to acknowledge that racism perhaps can be defined or described in a variety of ways. Let’s take a look at one author’s effort to define racism.

George Kelsey wrote the book, “Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man” in 1965, but his ideas still will inform our conversation today. Kelsey refers to Ruth Benedict’s definition of racism in her book, “Race: Science and Politics.” She defined racism this way:

It is the dogma that one ethnic group is condemned by nature to hereditary inferiority and another group is destined to hereditary superiority. It is the dogma that the hope of civilization depends upon eliminating some races and keeping others pure. It is the dogma that one race has carried progress throughout human history and can alone ensure future progress.

Kelsey shares several insights that emerge from this definition.

1. “Racism is a form of naturalism.” “Nature has condemned inferior races and blessed the superior race.”
2. “Racism is a plan of political action.” “The reduction of life by the means of deprivation has usually been a substitute for the elimination of races.” This leads to segregation, a political action.
3. “Racism is a philosophy of history.” “Racism teaches that the whole cultural superstructure rests on the genetic substructure.”

For Kelsey, therefore, “racism is a faith.” Racism is a “form of idolatry.”

Racism, unfortunately, still thrives in America and among Christian folk. Kelsey argues that it is a “Trojan horse.”

Racism must be acknowledged and confronted at every level and in every place. Christians cannot tolerate racism in the church or the community.

It is interesting to observe, that rarely will any person admit that he or she is a racist. Neither do organizations admit to racism. Yet, we know that racism abounds. Perhaps racism abounds because it is such a deeply ingrained ‘faith.”

Together, we must continue the struggle to root out racism in America and in our own personal faith posture.



  1. I greatly appreciate your words and challenge to root out racism. I strongly agree that racism is a “Trojan Horse” wherever it is allowed to exist without any deliberate effort to challenge it.
    I long for a discussion about racism to help us understand and practice the concept that there is only one race. We are all one race known as the human race. I believe the practice of this concept will help us overcome and root out racism wherever we find it.

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