A system of power and oppression, codified into laws, policies, and institutions, based on the socially and politically constructed concept of race, that advantages the dominant group (White people) and disadvantages non-dominant groups (people of color). Racism operates in the following ways: 


  • Internalized Racism - The set of private beliefs, prejudices, and ideas that individuals have about the superiority of White people and the inferiority of people of color (can be conscious or subconscious). Among people of color, it manifests as internalized racial oppression. Among White people, it manifests as internalized racial superiority. 
  • Interpersonal Racism - The expression of racism between individuals. These are interactions occurring between individuals that often take place in the form of harassing, racial slurs, or telling of racial jokes. Interpersonal racism also includes doing nothing and/or being silent when harassing, racial slurs, or telling of racial jokes occur.  
  • Institutional Racism - Discriminatory treatment, unfair policies and practices, and inequitable opportunities and impacts within organizations and institutions, based on race that routinely produce racially inequitable outcomes for people of color and advantages for White people. Individuals within institutions take on the power of the institution when they reinforce racial inequities.
  • Structural Racism - Racial bias across institutions and society over time. It’s the cumulative and compounded effects of an array of factors such as public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms that work in various, often reinforcing, ways to perpetuate racial inequity.


Adapted by the Boston Public Health Commission and Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center from Race Forward