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Racism - Learned Behavior Or Inherent Behavior?

Updated on August 4, 2017
BJC profile image

BJC, the author of Fuinneamh under the name Rowell French Whitehead. She teaches middle school & has degrees from the University of West FL.


Human Nature?

Racism, Is it a learned behavior? Or is it something that is an inherent part of human nature?

What exactly is racism?

Wikipedia's gives this definition,

"Racism is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and those racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.[1] In the case of institutional racism, certain racial groups may be denied rights or benefits, or get preferential treatment, while Reverse discrimination favors members of a historically disadvantaged group at the expense of those of a historically advantaged group." gave the following definition,

"According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term describes ‘the theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race'."

Racism is quite a hot topic, and isn't likely to go away anytime soon.

The following is a true story:

A white young boy, John, of about five years old came in and told his mother, "I don't like black people."

The mother was somewhat surprised as her best friend, Sarah, was a black lady and her son, Todd, played together all the time.

The mother asked John, "what about Todd?" John's friend.

John didn't say anything - remember; he's five (5).

The mother asked John, "what about Ms. Sarah?"

John thought for a moment and he didn't say anything. (He's 5 years old) It was as though he was thinking about his friend and his friend's mother without realizing that their skin color was different from his.

Upon further investigation, John told his mother that he'd heard the people next door say bad things about black people.

Now what does that tell you!!

Taught through a learned behavior?


Inherent behavior?

Where does racism come from?l

See results

© 2009 BJC


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Fantastic article. Looking forward for more posts like this.

    • Angelladywriter profile image

      Claudette Coleman Carter 

      3 years ago from Media, Pennsylvania

      Hi BJC,

      Compelling points are made which include amazing comments. We all agree that racism is a controversial issue that people tend to avoid rather than just be honest about their genuine opinions. Not one single individual was born a racist. It is definitely something we are taught. Now whether we adhere to what we are taught is another whole story.

      For the past twenty some years, I have been trying to unlearn what I was taught about white people as a child. I am thankful that through my study of God's word the Bible, I am learning how to look at individuals with genuine love for them rather than being concerned about their skin color. Notice, I said over twenty years and I still have work to do because I am imperfect. I am thankful that I am working diligently and prayerfully on love for all mankind rather than hatred.

      Good job! Continue your compelling discussions.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thanks for writing this blog and sharing it with all the world. I would like to know how you can go for reading through your rss blog. Please let me know if feasible.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      4 years ago from Philippines

      I think there is a tendency among children to have preferences. For example, studies show that babies like pretty faces, which is why babies are often more attracted to my daughter than to me. Also, they fear things that are different. I used to be scared of old people because their faces were wrinkly. In grade school, I remember a girl telling me she disliked this dark skinned boy because he looks dirty. So it may not be racism at this point, because the children can be taught to change their ideas and impressions. It's the parents who turn it into racism because children look up to their parents and believe what they are taught.

    • BJC profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Florida

      Ben, your comment about the media playing into the stereiotypes about people is correct. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The reason why little kids don't notice it and because they are ok with it, as you all seem to love to harp on, does not mean that it is a solely learned thing. We live in a time where races mix a lot more easier than they ever used to-geographically we are all in the same locations, we do the same activities and are members of the same social classes. But in places where there is no exposure to other peoples and cultures, they become acclimated to their own. That is what took place for most of humanity, that if we see something different, it is wrong and kill it. It is only very recently that peoples of different colors are raised in the same exact environments and develop together. But don't forget, we are inherently brought up with an idea of Otherness that, as time goes on, distinguishes itself. Media and culture provide no solution to this, and only play in to certain stereotypes about gender and race.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Racism can be inherent in some. My youngest sister told me she doesn't like black people, yet she has black friends. She says she likes her friends' personalities but she doesn't like the color of their skin. She also says she wouldn't tell it to them in their face if that says anything.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Advisor, how sad that this should occur! I share your sadness because this is an example of ignorance on the part of the aggressor/s. Hopefully in time your son will see that not all people of that particular race are the same. Thanks for sharing!

    • advisor4qb profile image


      8 years ago from On New Footing

      My son was a victim of reverse racism, and he was never racist before that, but he is now. And it is because of the experiences he had attending a school that was predominantly a different race. I have always encouraged my children to be open to new experiences and accept all people, but this was a situation beyond my control. I was deeply saddened by this.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a great response linda-patriot. Yes, we need to pray for our leaders and that the American people wake up and see what is happening.

    • linda-patriot profile image


      9 years ago

      Racism is definitely learned behavior, Jesus is the one who loves us all. They may be red and yellow black, and white but all are prescious in HIS sight. Not Obamas'. I believe in teaching our children to worship Jesus, but not worship Obama. I voted for him,sorry to say. But I'm not prejudice. I love Muslims, i pray they all come to know Christ as Savior. God is love, once you come to know jesus as Savior and have a personal relationship with Him, theres no room for prejudice. I've prayed for our representatives in office now, all the presidents have sold their souls to the devil for power. They use the hand signal the horn signal, you can find it on Youtube. Obama does it, so did Bush and Clinton as well as their wives. It's really sad. What will a man or woman give in exchange for their souls? They've made their choices. The main steam media and the ones with money put them in power. But we can take our Country back! I would vote another black man in if he were a christian and would tell us the truth and do what wwas best for WE the People! We need a christian a real Christian whose never been corrupted. I don't believe Amereicans are really prejudice. We voted in a black man. He didn't get all black votes. I do know some bigots and it's sad that they're tainted with this point of view. it's time to wake up and vote in real christians that'll be led by the Lord. someone who'll represent the people! NO MORE LIARS!!!! Everyone who loves is of God, for God is love!! Let's just end the carears of all these politicians. Everyone who is of the family of God needs to stand up and fight, love each other no matter what race, but really love each other and change this nation back to what we wanted changed.

    • profile image

      ii iiz piimpiin 

      9 years ago

      & the paper is due tomorrow, so try to help asap. if not then it's okay.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i think racism is a learned behavior and i'm trying to write a paper. help me, anyone?

    • jiberish profile image


      9 years ago from florida

      Learned behavior. My kids didn't know there was a difference until they started school. We lived in NC, and the are was intergrated with many blacks, Cherokee Indians, and children from many nations. It was the second grade that the issue ever came up. Sad.

    • BJC profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Florida

      Madame X, great response!! Digress all you want. Yes, it is the consertives who have made the gains for equality amongst the races. If the libs didn't keep this going they wouldn't have a platform and they would lose money.


    • profile image

      Madame X 

      9 years ago

      I've always known it was learned behavior. If you ever watch little kids with each other they are oblivious to the "difference".

      As far as conservatives go, it was the republican party who has fought for and made the gains it has for equality of race in America.

      It was the democrats who, started the KKK, maintained the KKK over the decades, fought against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, kept segregation as long as possible, instituted "whites only" facilities, and treated blacks as second class citizens.

      Whew! Sorry to digress but I just couldn't help myself. Great Hub!!

    • BJC profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Florida

      Yup, you're right sneakorocksolid, (that is a mouthful..) the liberals always want to paint conservatives as racist yet nothing could be further from the truth.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Racism is horrible. It's sad that something so evil is launched at conservatives with recless abandon. It only shows how maladjusted our liberal neighbors really are. Get some help.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Nancy, that was great. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Haha, Nancy: That is one of the best stories I have heard in a long time! Cheers!

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 

      9 years ago

      Racism, is taught by parents, families, etc...It's the enviroment one has been brought up in...Sadly, in today's world, it still exists...

      South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu walked by a construction site on a temporary sidewalk the width of one person. A white man appeared at the other end, recognized Tutu, and said, "I don't make way for gorillas." At which Tutu stepped aside, made a deep sweeping gesture, and said, "Ah, yes, but I do."~~Walter Wink

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      9 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      It comes into play too often.The blind leading the blind

      Unfortunately they are not color blind.

    • BJC profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Florida

      Someonewhoknow, thanks for your comment, but for this article the topic was on skin color. I agree, there are all kinds of people I don't care for and the color of their skin is a irrelevant. However, in some parts this does come into play.

    • BJC profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Florida

      I so agree with you - learned behavior. As I tell my middle school students - you can make a difference in your world - see a person and not the skin color. We all need each other.

      This is a true story of myself and a very close friend of mine. I was pretty shocked when my son came in the house and started talking to me. Then i realized what had happened. Hate to think what would have happened if he never mentioned anything to me....

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      9 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      A Little of both.

      Personality plays a role,no matter what race your from.

      The problem is racism is supposedly just about color,ethnicity,or cultural characteristics.In reality your personality plays a major role.Maybe not for everyone ,but for me it does.There are members of my own race that I can't stand,so why are some so adament about someone just because of race or color alone.

      As for reverse discrimination legally speaking.I can see the need to correct a wrong ,but in my view,as a person who has not discriminated against someone simply because they were of a different color or race even though it may appear that way to someone else

      I would feel discriminated against if I had to give up something personally for someone who has been discrimninated against by a third party.

      I believe in Karma ,and anything I or anyone does to deprive someone of what is rightfully their's will happen to them in return.

      That person or group of people involved would have to compansate the person or persons that they have done that to.wheather there is a formal law to enforce it or not.

      Of course voluntarily compansating for it is always a good sign.But to make a law is forced and not necessarily the right thing to do.For example how long is this reverse discrimination to last?

      I believe in reincarnation,so to me karma would demand that If I discriminated against someone in a previous life I would have to be born into a race of people who I discriminated against,unless I made amends before then in the body I have now before reincarnating.

      So,theoretically speaking there would be no necessity for reverse discrimination to take place.It would be automatic.

      Then some would say ,your just saying that because you wanted an excuse for not having legaly enfored reverse discrimination.

      Such are lifes delemas they abound everywhere.

      Money seems to be the center of attention when compansation is required ,but money can't bring a dead person back to life.

      In Karma every aspect of a wrong is considered and accounted for.

      If for the sake of argument I cause the death of someone .Lets say it was an accident.Assuming that that person had not done the same to someone else then I as the person responsible would either save another persons life or lose mine in the same manor at some point in the future to compansate for what I did.

      Karma is strange in that it is hard to decern who did what to whom and when if you don't really know what the score is.Remember Reincarnation makes that difficult for ordinary people to determine.

      I consider myself to be an ordinary person.So who am I to say is to blame? Karma doesn't inform ordinary people as to the true facts of the matter.Probably for a good reason.

    • Ellen_C profile image


      9 years ago

      My family was from the Northeast and we moved to the Southest when I was young. No one in my family ever had any issue with race. When I began working in customer service I started to discover where prejudice existed. Unfortunately, people acted upon ideas they had from a past experience and held grudges from those. Many have been passed down generations.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      It is learned behavior for sure.

    • Catlyn profile image


      9 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      BJC ~ Thanks for writing about such a controversial topic. We sure see "the race card" being played out in the political arena today. I would have to say that racism is not inherent, but taught, modeled, or mimicked. The little boy you write about is the antithesis of racism.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      WOW! How thought provoking.


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