What Is the Definition of Internalized Racism?

Internalized racism is a complex and multi-faceted concept that refers to how racism, prejudice, and discriminatory ideas and beliefs are absorbed and adopted by individuals, usually from a dominant society, and become part of one’s identity. Internalized racism is a form of psychological oppression wherein an individual’s self-image, behavior, and attitudes are affected by their experiences of racism and discrimination.

Internalized racism is often the result of subtle, covert messages that have been instilled in a person since childhood. Stereotypes, microaggressions, and other forms of prejudice often shape how individuals perceive themselves and their place in the world. Internalized racism can manifest in various ways, including feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, guilt or shame, and a reluctance to challenge or question unjust systems.

Internalized racism can manifest not only in an individual’s thoughts and feelings but also in their behavior. Individuals may become passive and compliant when faced with racism or exhibit behaviors that reinforce racial stereotypes and systemic oppression. For example, when faced with discrimination, some individuals may become less assertive or vocal or assume that any success or recognition results from their race or ethnicity.

Internalized racism can have a profound and lasting impact on an individual’s mental and physical health, sense of self-worth, relationships, and overall quality of life. It is important to recognize and address internalized racism in order to break the cycle of oppression and create a more just and equitable society. 

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