Conflating Apples and Oranges: Understanding Modern Forms of Racism



Social scientists generally agree that the post-Civil Rights form of racism is different from that which existed in the Jim Crow-era in the United States. However, beyond this agreement, what exactly modern racism is and “looks like” is debatable. With this in mind, a surprising and somewhat disturbing trend frequently occurs among social scientists that can have real consequences within academia and the general public: conflation. In naming a newly developed concept as “racism”, social scientists often conflate three interrelated concepts: racial prejudice, racial discrimination, and racism. This paper clarifies these three interrelated concepts and the problems with conflating them. Additionally, this paper describes many of the alternative conceptions of racism in the post-Civil Rights era, identifying where conflation exists in each concept. In closing, the paper describes the implications of conflation for social science research and the American public.