There is a lot of sensitivity regarding race in the United States. In my view, the topology of this sociological landscape is characterized by one factor--but I can't think of the word for it.

There is a certain "sensitivity" to race that some have that others don't, especially in politics and sociological issues. The best way to describe it is mental "polarization". Some people are oblivious to race, yet others use race as their default reference frame when considering social issues.

The word that I'm looking for is similar to "partisanship". This is exactly the word I'm looking for with "race" being replaced with "political party". Partisanship is also not binary: some are more partisan than others, based on the extent to which political party factors into their decisions and their analysis of political issues. I'm looking for the same thing, but instead I'm looking for a non-binary term that describes how much race factors into their analysis of social issues.

Please do not answer with any of the following or any of its derivatives:

I am looking for a word that describes the polarization based on race, not a word describing people's feelings about it. Stratification is not what I'm looking for either, as that describes an associative polarization which works from the psychology of one's own personal identity. The word I'm looking for does not pertain to social polarization, but mental polarization when considering social issues. It also does not pertain to personal identity.

  • So is this a meta-concept? How people deal with racism in others, how much they care about it?
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 16:08
  • 2
    "Racialism" does not exactly match what you're looking for (in the sense that it mirrors partisanship) but it's related - it refers to recognizing and categorizing racial differences without assigning superiority. It's also pretty frequently used by racists who don't want to actually sound racist to describe themselves, but its misuse doesn't disqualify it as a concept.
    – Marcus_33
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 16:38
  • 2
    Your post reminds me of parochialism. Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 17:23
  • @Mitch Not racism, just race. Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 20:50
  • It's not clear what concept you're looking for. Also a single word may not capture it. Can you give a succinct accurate label using 5 words or less? 'Race awareness difference'? 'Social race involvement'? Something like that?
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 21:23

4 Answers 4


A word that covers stratification according to some group identity is tribalism.

Tribalism: strong loyalty to one's own tribe, party, or group.

This term is broader than what you're asking for, insofar as it covers strongly identifying with any kind of group, whether it be a race, creed, favourite hockey team, etc. In order to make your point clearly you might have to use the phrase: racial tribalism.


While it's not a single word answer, identity politics might be related:

Identity politics are political arguments that focus upon the self-interest and perspectives of self-identified social interest groups and ways in which people's politics may be shaped by aspects of their identity through race, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation or traditional dominance.


I think a good fit for your description would be ethnocentrism.

According to American Heritage Dictionary, it can be

  1. Belief in the superiority of one's own ethnic group.

  2. Overriding concern with race.

(Clearly we'd be going with sense 2 here.) Vocabulary.com indicates that it is a sub-type of partisanship.


Try anomie -etymologically, I suspect it may work under your conditions.

From Oxford Dictionaries

(mass noun) lack of the usual social or ethical standards in an individual or group:

the theory that high-rise architecture leads to anomie in the residents.

  • doesn't anomie mean something akin to apathy/lack of purpose?
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 16:06
  • 1
    I think anomie is more about the social alienation/disconnectedness of an individual or relatively small group, who don't relate to the values of mainstream society. If it is used of a group, they're often just individuals who happen to fit that description. This doesn't necessarily imply that they share values with others in the group either, which seems central to OP's request. Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 17:28

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