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Racism and sexism are examples of institutional practices that result in discrimination against individuals on the basis of their race or gender.

The dictionary definition of institutional is

of, in, or like an institution or institutions

and the dictionary definition of institution is

a society or organization founded for a religious, educational, social, or similar purpose.

Putting the two together does it mean that racism and sexism are not though up by a single individual but a society as whole?

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You have the correct definitions of institution, the two significant definitions being an established organization and a custom, practice, or law that is accepted and used by many people.

Putting the two together does it mean that racism and sexism are not though up by a single individual but a society as whole?

No, it is not thought up by an entire society. Like most things political/institutional, it starts with a group of people holding power, who then have their ideas/biases institutionalized.

Certainly this is how it happens in other countries as well. The examples are legion. One example is Adolf Hitler's rise to power and his progromme.

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So "institutional practices" is a practice that didn't start with all of society, but did start with more than a single individual? – Celeritas Apr 11 '14 at 6:55
@Celeritas - Yes, it starts with a group of people who share the same biases. Sometimes it's a very large group, sometimes it's a small group, but there is usually a power imbalance, where the powerful work their biases into an institution: the law, academia, etc. – medica Apr 11 '14 at 7:26
Using the word "society" in this context is a bit ambiguous - "a society" would be a specific group of people, while "society" would be everybody. Try substituting "organisation" and it's clearer - the "institution" in this case is some specific organisation, for instance a police force. – Simon B Apr 11 '14 at 7:48

Probably. Without context, it's hard to tell whether the 'institution' in question is society as a whole, some specific organization, or an abstract institution being used as an example. However, in each case, the passage is describing these forms of discrimination as being 'part of the system', rather than the actions of individuals.

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So the sentence is basically saying "people normally don't arrive at the conclusion themselves that they should be prejudice, but due to a group of people the social norms are established to being prejudice"? – Celeritas Apr 11 '14 at 6:57

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