Racism means many things to many people. Oxford says it’s “the belief that there are characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to each race”. That’s a pretty broad definition, and arguably isn’t negative in and of itself.
The common use of the word is far more malicious and, in my opinion, ill-informed. Most people use the word to mean “any sort of behavior or view that reflects negatively on a race other than their own.” Both of those definitions are incorrect, in my opinion. Here’s my view:
True racism is when a person has negative feelings toward someone based on race alone. When person A has all of the characteristics that person B normally accepts as constituting a “decent” person (education, dress, speech, attitude, etc.), but they reject them anyway because of their race, that makes them a racist.
Too often this is confused with behavior-based judgment, and this misunderstanding harms society greatly. When a group of 15 black men walk into a mall dressed as gangsta-rappers — shouting, laughing, and ogling every woman that passes by — the hate that is directed at them is usually based on their behavior, not their race. And it’d be much the same for the same group of people acting the same way if they were white.
This is in severe contrast to the stereotypical white father who won’t let his daughter marry a black guy from a great family who just got his MBA from Harvard—just because he’s black.
Until we as a society can openly acknowledge and discuss this distinction we’re doomed to continue in our fear-based silence that does nothing but harm us.
If racism means everything bad towards a group of people then it means nothing.