Cultural Racism: Conceptualization

Drawing on Helms’ (1993) conceptualization, cultural racism can be defined as societal beliefs and customs that promote the assumption that the products of a given culture, including the language and traditions of that culture are superior to those of other cultures.

Cultural racism exists when there is a widespread acceptance of stereotypes concerning different ethnic or racial groups.

To assess the degree to which these stereotypes are widely accepted, investigators have collected data from national surveys of explicit beliefs and attitudes, as well as experimental studies of implicit attitudes. Much of this literature has investigated attitudes towards Black Americans. Although there have been improvements, studies suggest that negative attitudes still persist (Alba, Rumbaut, & Marotz, 2005; Baldwin, Day, & Hecht, 2000; Brezina & Winder, 2003; Fox, 2004; Kaplowitz, Broman, & Fisher, 2006).

Investigators studying cultural racism examine the ways in which different methods for communicating cultural values develop and maintain positive and negative beliefs about different racial and ethnic groups. Examples of methods to communicate these beliefs include:

  • Icons and observances (e.g., holidays, festivals, etc.) (Sue et al., 2007).
  • Mass media presentations, (i.e., widely used forms of communication, including film, television, advertisements, newspapers and magazines, and the internet) (Dixon, 2008).

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