Tacit Racism

Tacit Racism

Anne Warfield Rawls and Waverly Duck

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226703558

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Every time we interact with another person, we draw unconsciously on a set of expectations to guide us through the encounter. What many of us in the United States—especially White people—do not recognize is that centuries of institutional racism have inescapably molded those expectations into taken-for-granted practices that reproduce the biases in our society. These practices can shape everything from how we greet our neighbors to whether we take a second look at a résumé. This is tacit racism, and it is one of the most pernicious threats to our nation. In this book we show how racism is coded into “everyday” expectations of social interaction, in what we call Interaction Orders of Race, in “tacit” taken-for-granted ways. This unconscious racism is coded into greeting and introductory sequences, perceptions of who can hold high status identities, and basic expectations about honesty, health and masculinity. We explore the Interaction Order expectations of Black Americans and their neighborhoods finding not only that social order among African Americans is different than for White Americans, but that it is more democratic. Because Race has been institutionalized in social expectations, acting on racism doesn’t require conscious intent: actions are racist if Race is coded into them. This tacit racism divides the nation, providing fertile ground for manipulation of issues associated with Race (e.g. healthcare, guns, voting rights and immigration) by foreign powers and wealthy special interests, such that Race divisions now pose a clear and present danger to the nation and our democracy.