I find myself constantly trying to get people to understand the differences between racism, discrimination, and prejudice. While racism encapsulates discrimination and prejudice, discrimination doesn’t encapsulate racism and prejudice encapsulates neither. This is a concept that I have trouble putting into words, making it even harder for other people to understand. However, I found that this concept is shared by three simple geometric concepts that should make it easier to understand.
This is a quadrilateral.
Let’s pretend that this quadrilateral is ignorance. Just like the quadrilateral, ignorance is the most basic of its kind. Ignorance breeds bigotry, quadrilaterals form more specific quadrilaterals.
Got it? Good.
This is a parallelogram.
This parallelogram is prejudice. Prejudice is unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes towards a group of people. A parallelogram is a type of quadrilateral just like prejudice is a type of ignorance. However, not all quadrilaterals are parallelograms and not all forms of ignorance are prejudice.
This is a rectangle
This rectangle represents discrimination. Discrimination is an action based on prejudice. As in, actively allowing their prejudice to make decisions and the like. Rectangles are forms of parallelograms just like discrimination is based on prejudice. However, a person can choose not to act on their prejudices. It’s incredibly hard, but possible. Therefore, not all prejudice is discrimination just like not all parallelograms are rectangles.
Finally, this is a square.
A square is a rectangle, a parallelogram, and a quadrilateral. Racism is a system comprised of discrimination, prejudice, and ignorance. The requirements of a square call for all sides to be of equal length. The requirements for racism, being a system, call for one group to have more privilege and power than other groups. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. All squares are parallelograms, but not all parallelograms are squares. All squares are quadrilaterals, but not all quadrilaterals are squares. It is possible to be prejudiced but not racist. It is possible to be discriminatory, but not racist. However, again, racism calls for an entire group to have more power and privilege than other groups. People of color do not have the power to create a system where white people have less power and privilege.
I hope this makes things easier to understand.