As discussed later. some forms of racism are based on biological arguments about the innate inferiority of members of certain racial and ethnic groups; however, ore-recent forms of racism have attempted to justify the unequal treatment of the same groups of people on other grounds. The world has seen a long history of of racism: It can be traced from the earliest civilizations. At various times throughout u.s. history, various categories of people, including Irish Americans, Italian Americans, Jewish Americans, African Americans, and Latinos/as, have been the objects of racist ideology. However, not everyone is equally racist. Studies have shown that the underlying reasoning behind racism differs according to factors such as gender, age,
class, and geography (see Cashmore, 1996; Feagin and Vera, 1995). Racism may be overt or subtle. Overt racism is more blatant and may take the form of public statements about the "inferiority" of members of a racial or ethnic group. In sports, for example, calling a player of color a derogatory name, participating in racist chanting during a sporting event. and writing racist graffiti in a team's locker room are all forms of overt racism. These racist actions are blatant, but subtle forms of
racism are often hidden from sight and more difficult to prove. Examples of subtle racism in sports include those descriptions of African American athletes which suggest that they have "natural" abilities and are better suited for team positions requiring speed and agility. By contrast, whites are described as having the intelligence, dependability, and leadership and decisionmaking skills needed in positions requiring higher levels of responsibility and control.
Racism tends to intensify in times of economic uncertainty and high rates of immigration. Recently. relatively high rates of immigration in nations such as the United States, Canada. England. France. and Germany have been accompanied by an upsurge in racism and racial conflict (see Box 10.2). Sometimes. intergroup racism and conflicts further exacerbate strained relationships between dominant-group members and subordinate racial and ethnic group members. For example, when animosities have run very high among African American and Salvadoran
groups in Long Island, New York. some white Americans have pointed to those hostilities as evidence that both groups are inferior and not deserving of assistance from the U.S. government or from charitable organizations such as the Catholic church (Mahler, 1995).