What is scientific racism? What is institutional racism? Are there any discernable differences between the two, or can they be used interchangeably?

closed as off topic by coleopterist, FumbleFingers, choster, tchrist, Robusto Mar 5 '13 at 13:10

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I guess I am asking definition of some words, – Node.JS Mar 5 '13 at 4:46
  • Why did you use a capital S in the word scientific? There is no such thing as scientific racism, at least not that I know of. There were at one time scientists, so-called, who postulated that the facial- and bone-structure features of black people were indications of inferiority to the white people. Now I'd call that scientific racism. – rhetorician Mar 5 '13 at 5:01
  • Institutional racism is alive and well today in American religious denominations, colleges and universities, corporations, and in a host of other institutions. Personally, I believe there is ONE race in the world, and that is the HUMAN race. Thank goodness, though, the U.S. Constitution protects certain classes of people who are discriminated against because of their race, color, religion, nationality, gender, disability, and age. At least institutional racism can be countered, often successfully, in American courts. – rhetorician Mar 5 '13 at 5:15
  • I think it's Not Constructive. As @rhetorician says, there's no commonly recognised concept of "Scientific racism", so we can't meaningfully discuss that anyway. And institutional racism is a well-established term with a relatively clear/fixed meaning that doesn't need to be repeated by ELU. – FumbleFingers Mar 5 '13 at 5:18
  • 2
    I just did the research on this (see my answer below), and I'd say that it is a constructive question. I certainly didn't know that there were so many different subdivisions of racism before looking it up, though I admit that it didn't much surprise me. And @rhetorician, though it has died out a great deal, scientific racism certainly existed. It was interesting to read on its influence on much of the imperialism that was going on in the period between the American Civil War and World War I. – jimbotherisenclown Mar 5 '13 at 5:26

Let's start by defining racism for completeness sake. Racism is a belief that humans can be divided into distinct groups, called races, and that one or more group is either superior or inferior to (an)other group(s).

Institutional racism is pretty much what it sounds like. That's simply racism as perpetrated by an institution such as a school, government body, or business. If an organization demonstrates racism (as opposed to an individual demonstrating racism), then it can be classified as institutional racism. It is also known as structural racism, state racism, and systemic racism.

Scientific racism can be practiced by an individual or an institution. It is racism that is supported or justified by scientific or pseudoscientific practices, theories, or hypotheses.

There is also economic racism, which is a social or economic disparity between perceived races that is due to past racism and historical reasons. Economic racism is unique in that it may be caused by persons long deceased; if a difficult to overturn law sets wages for different races, or encourages different races to live in segregated sections of a community, that's economic racism, even if everybody around is trying to overturn the law.

To illustrate, you are a purple person looking for a job.

  • If an employee denies you the job, telling you he personally doesn't want to work with a purple person, that's regular racism, no extra label needed.
  • If that employee tells you that the board of directors refuses to hire purple people, that's institutional racism.
  • If the employee cites a study claiming purple people tend to smell bad and scare away customers as the reason for refusing you the job, that's scientific racism.
  • If the employee gives you the job but tells you that purple people make $1/hour less than other people, that's economic racism.
  • I'll be happy to back this up with further examples of each if necessary, but I'd prefer to avoid specific real world examples unless I'm asked for them. Sensitive subject and all. – jimbotherisenclown Mar 5 '13 at 5:30
  • 1
    Your last three bullet points are very clear and sensible. Your first, however, ignores the possibility that your failure to get the job was unrelated to your purpleness. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Mar 5 '13 at 10:14
  • True. It's now been edited to reflect your comment. Thank you for pointing out the error. – jimbotherisenclown Mar 5 '13 at 10:19
  • So that's the reason for purple people eaters: tasting good, not smelling bad. – GEdgar Mar 5 '13 at 15:06

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.