Should We Rethink Racial Terminology?

Higher Purpose Forum is working with several organizations on a project titled “New Possibilities for Race Relations in the U.S.”  The following is a simplified abstract of a paper the author prepared for a project meeting on August 14, 2021.  We eagerly invite your comments.

To effectively address racial challenges in the U.S. we must proceed from a correct diagnosis with clear terminology. In this context, I believe it is important to differentiate between “racial prejudice” (or “racial bias”) on one hand and “racism” on the other.

I propose the following differentiation:

“Racial Bias” is a passive, prejudiced misperception.

“Racism” is an active assertion of non-acceptance.

Racial Prejudice = Passive Misperception

Racial prejudice exists on a universal basis. It is one of many self-centered, unhealthy and destructive pathologies in the heart of any individual alienated from God.  As such, racial prejudice results from an inability to see others from God’s viewpoint — especially those visibly different from oneself.

It is clearly that case that the more readily perceptible racial differentiations are, the greater the bias/prejudice that are likely to prevail in our perceptions of one another. Hence racial bias is likely to prevail more extensively between black and white races than between races whose color differentiations are less obvious.

Racism = Assertive Nonacceptance

Racism” is less universal than racial prejudice.  Racism is actually a learned behavior built off racial prejudice.  As a subjective behavior, racism is learned from parents, colleagues, and other providers of social cues motivated by attitudes of cold-hearted non-acceptance.

A heart of non-acceptance on my part means that I deny your identity as a son or daughter of God with value equal to my own.

The racist attitude supports the assumption of superiority to, or hostility towards, individuals with racial characteristics different from one’s own. Relationships thus affected may be physically or emotionally abusive. The greater the authority allowed to those holding such attitudes, the more extensive the damage those individuals can do. Accordingly, racist behavior is illegal in the United States.


What is your opinion of these definitions, and this differentiation between “racial prejudice” and “racism”?

What is your reaction to the observation of “an inability to see other’s from God’s viewpoint”? Is that a useful framework for you? Why or why not?

How do you react to the proposition that the problem of “racial bias” or “racial prejudice” is a universal trait, carried by all people, regardless of race?

How do these explanations fit with your own self-assessment? Do you accept the charge that, like everyone else, you are racially prejudiced?

Have you ever acted like a racist, asserting your non-acceptance of a person(s) because of their racial difference?

Do you have an alternative understanding that you can propose?

Please share your thoughts below.