Institutionalized Racism

Covert racism is the hidden form of racism that eludes confrontation. After all, if the behavior cannot be decisively labeled racist, then no offended party exists, no discussion needs to take place and no apologies need to be given. Therefore, covert racism is the perfect means by which a racist can enjoy a comfortable existence in mixed crowds.

Sly racist attacks and insults are slippery. Sometimes the offensive comment is only fully understood after the fact. Sometimes hints of subtle racial abuse come in the form of emotional discomfort or uneasiness around certain people, even if one is unable to put a finger on the cause. Alternatively, paranoia does exist, and it affects some people who claim to be victims of racist attacks when they are only victims of erroneous thinking. But, however mild or insidious, covert racist behavior persists despite concerted efforts to eliminate all forms of racism.

Rebellion is not only carried out in the form of protests in the streets, it can also be launched by individuals who wish to maintain a certain mindset even though society considers it harmful, biased or incorrect. Covert racists want to retain their mindset in secret in order to avoid sanction but still let their opinions be known.

The only way to expose covert racism is to confront it at every opportunity. In the presence of a suspected racist, one should pay close attention to his or her words and never allow a questionable comment to slip by without commenting on it. For example, if a suspected racist remark is made, one can ask the perpetrator to repeat it for clarification, explain it or not say it again. If the culprit seems baffled by the reaction, one can explain to the perpetrator that his or her words can be interpreted as being racist.

But since covert racism is an intentionally hidden form of racism, it is reasonable to conclude that many covert racists already know that their words are harmful and can be interpreted as racist; that is why they sneak them into conversations with members of disliked ethnic groups. It is a way to offend cleanly, leaving no trace of a palpable offense, while achieving the desired effect.

Perhaps there is no diplomatic way to deal with the skilled covert racist, other than by avoidance.  But by simply making a covert racist aware of the fact that his or her behavior has been detected and is no longer clever, witty or hidden, the offended party asserts his or her right to react to inappropriate, disrespectful comments and demand respect in all interactions.