• Suman Fernando
Part of the Issues in Mental Health book series (IMH)


The doctrine of racism that developed in Western culture in conjunction with ideas about race was discussed in Chapter 1. Racism is fashioned by racial prejudice and underpinned by economic and social factors; when implemented and practised through the institutions of society, it is called ‘institutional racism’. Although race prejudice and racism are related concepts (Figure 2.1), they should be distinguished from each other. Race prejudice is basically a psychological state, a feeling or attitude of mind, felt and/or expressed as ‘an antipathy based upon a faulty and inflexible generalisation’ (Allport, 1954); at a deeper level it may be likened to a superstition (Fryer, 1984). Racism, however, is a doctrine or ideology — or dogma. Race prejudice and racism often go together but racism, unlike prejudice, is recognised by the behaviour of an individual and/or the way an institutional system works in practice, although (racially prejudiced) attitudes of mind that are recognisable and consciously held may be present also. And racism is associated with power — the power of one racial group over another. Further, Wellman (1977) argues that an attitude such as prejudice must be seen within its ‘structural context’ — the distribution of power within the society, political constraints arising from external influences, rivalries between social classes, etc.


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© Suman Fernando 1991

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  • Suman Fernando

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