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"Racist" and "racism" are provocative words in American society. To some, these words have reached the level of curse words in their offensiveness. Yet, "racist" and "racism" are descriptive words of a reality that cannot be denied. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans (people-of-color) live daily with the effects of both institutional and individual racism.
Race issues are so fundamental in American society that they seem almost an integral component. Some Americans believe that race is the primary determinant of human abilities and capacities. Some Americans behave as if racial differences produce inherent superiority in European Americans (whites). In fact, such individuals respond to people-of-color and whites differently merely because of race (or ethnicity). As a consequence, people of color are injured by judgments or actions that are directly or indirectly racist.
Much of the attention of the last 40 years has focused on individual racist behavior. However, just as individuals can act in racist ways, so can institutions.
Institutions can behave in ways that are overtly racist (i.e., specifically excluding people-of-color from services) or inherently racist (i.e., adopting policies that while not specifically directed at excluding people-of-color, nevertheless result in their exclusion).
Therefore, institutions can respond to people-of-color and whites differently. Institutional behavior can injure people-of-color; and, when it does, it is nonetheless racist in outcome if not in intent.