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Cultural Racism in the Current Day

Both theoretical investigation, research, and cultural psychology suggest to observe the issue of racism as not only an individual quality but also one that is apparent on a larger scale in the world. While it can be described as individual prejudice, racism often has a systematic nature which can be observed through cultural artifacts, institutional states, and ideological discourse. The issue is deeply rooted and is often supported by historically derived ideas and opinions, which are often based on incorrect assumptions and investigations, and as such, they maintain racial inequalities. There are three insights that can be observed through the perspective of cultural psychology on the current state of racism-directed mentality and systemic factors. First, racism can be observed in many daily experiences. Second, because of socialized inclination towards selection and preferences, some racialized contexts remain in the present day. Third, since humanity resides in cultural spheres and communities, the promotion of racialized perspectives, lifestyles, values and other factors occurs. Although tendency towards racism can be totally dependent on an individual, societal structures have a larger role in racial disparity.

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The current conception of racism, at least in mainstream U.S. society, can be described as a socioeconomic and cultural-psychological development which relies on historically derived and handpicked concepts. These ideas manifest themselves within institutions, practices, artifacts, and other social contexts. A foundational aspect of cultural-psychological studies defines itself on mutual constitution: the suggestion that psyche and culture are two components that cannot be separated. As such, this perspective theorizes that there is a changing relationship between the psychological manifestation of racism as well as the perception of racism from observing the world. People living within any sort of communities also find themselves within cultural worlds which promote specific values, behaviors, and context-specific opinions of the world. As such, racism or racist views are not an innately grown disposition but the product of interacting with a cultural world that promotes and facilitates racialized habits, mindsets, and conduct. The system is maintained through selected preferences, actions, and practices, which are often passed from previous generations. The selected aspects of the cultural world may then arise and continue to be reproduced within the social context, while non-racialized components may fail to be reproduced. If racism is observed through the cultural-psychological framework, it appears as both the foundation and reproduction of racist action and dynamics. It reflects the modern world through three ideas. First, the reproduction of racist action is embedded in the structure of many everyday aspects such as institutions, policies, and economic opportunity. Second, people continue to inhabit cultural worlds that still promote racialized methods of processing reality. Third, just as the ways of seeing are promoted, racialized contexts are continuously affected by selections, preferences, practices, and actions that are driven by racialized notions.

Acknowledging the racism within everyday structures allows us to understand the extent to which racism has shaped modern society. It does not simply remain a function of a distant past, but presents itself in legal, educational, economic, and other systems within a society. Even representations or race, ethnicity, and nationality have historically derived connotations about superiority and inferiority as opposed to simply being neutral categories. Despite this, they are still in practice, despite the colonial-roots which identified Europeans as ‘white’ and ‘superior’, while dark-skinned people were used for comparison as inferior and ‘other’. Though there is significant decrease of such perception in modern society, racist actions such as attacks that are justified due to the victim’s ethnicity are prevalent. Statistical data indicates that Black Americans continue to face inequalities and disparities in education, health, income, and employment (Salter et al., 2017). White Americans are more likely to believe that Black Americans are doing as well as them, and are less likely to see racism in current society. The cultural-psychological perspective suggests that this may occur due to the fact that certain cultural-psychological utilities allow for better insight into racist actions. White Americans may be perceiving less racism as they have less knowledge of historical and cultural responses to past racism. One study took the hypothesis and focused on the aspect by which history is represented. Displays for Black History Month were observed from predominantly Black and White high schools. Displays from majority White high schools highlighted abstract concepts of diversity and focused on individual achievements (Salter et al., 2017). Black high schools made direct references to racist barriers that made many of the feats extraordinary. As such, it can be theorized that exposure to historical actions allowed for better perception of racism and support for anti-racist policy. Though the study does not determine that to be the only cause of such disparity, it is one possible component of the complex issue.

The representation of history alone is not a correct example of current racism in the world, but the reproduction of historically driven ideologies can be seen in current day contexts. Timelines of events span longer than an individual life, and as such, collective past must be interpreted through cultural tools such as schools, books, museums, traditions, and other practices. Though Thanksgiving is currently celebrated as the triumph of the Pilgrims with the Native Americans, much of the wrongdoings of the settlers are excluded from the celebration. Meanwhile, unrelated traditions are often added such as parades and sporting events. The silence on the hostile nature of past relations with settlers and Native Americans are embedded in many cultural aspects such as the speeches of the first American Thanksgiving, which emphasizes national glory while minimizing the experiences of the indeigenous people (Salter et al., 2017). Such manifestations of newer cultural components and the exclusion of less desirable historical realities are also a leading role in the current gap of perception of racism and ongoing racist actions.

The cultural-psychological perspective suggests that intervention is better aimed at large real-world, societal cues of racism. Controlling individual expression of racialized bias would be less effective than reconstructing the cultural worlds which promote these racist tendencies. This theory does not suggest the dismantlement of an entire cultural world but a re-assessment of certain promoted values, practices, and institutional standards. Recent examples of such motions include the reclamation of Columbus Day for indigenous people, the dismantlement of Confederate monuments, and the enactment of new ethnic-studies in Nevada. The perspective suggests the alteration of the cultural worlds to avoid historically-derived notions, such as the celebration of holidays that are built on White settlers using the slave labor of Africans, which can instill a sense of superiority. Despite intention or personal opinion, participation in such events or behaviors enables individuals to continue upholding values that promote racial disparity. This perspective does not suggest absolving individuals of interpersonal racism, but conveys that actions that oppose a larger systematic issue as an promising way to face the core of the issue.


Salter, P. S., Adams, G., & Perez, M. J. (2017). Racism in the Structure of Everyday Worlds: A Cultural-Psychological Perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(3), 150-155.

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