Lifting the Veil on Neo-Racism

An Analysis of Modern Racial Prejudice

In the fabric of the modern-day world, the delicate fibers of neo-racism weave an intricate narrative, which often escapes casual notice. This complex for of racial discrimination and prejudice veils itself under a shadow of normalcy, making it even more difficult to detect and confront. As the society wades through the dynamics of a reportedly progressive era, it is imperative to understand this implicit and covert manifestation of prejudice. Neo-racism works stealthily, shaping systemic structures, attitudes, and beliefs, trickling into the very tapestry of contemporary interactions and institutions. This insidious discrimination is a critical stumbling block on the road to authentic inclusivity and equality. Unveiling its intricacies and acknowledging its existence would allow society to take the requisite steps to dismantle and challenge the foundations on which it is built. This essay posits that although neo-racism presents itself as an indirect form of racial discrimination in the modern world, its subtle nature lies within the reinforcement of discriminatory systemic structures, attitudes, and beliefs and persistently promote to disparities that prevent authentic progress towards inclusivity and equality.

There is a Neo-Racism

Contemporary discourse on neo-racism includes questions on whether there is indeed a new form of racism in the first place. To this, this essay responds in the affirmative. Neo-racism works under the surface and it often avoids immediate detection, and thus is a more subtle yet similarly insidious form of racial prejudice. In his conceptualization of neo-racism, Balibar (2007) defines it as a racism whose main theme is not biological heredity. Its main theme is the insuperability of cultural differences. Balibar (2007) continues to conceptualize neo-racism as a form of racism which does not at first sight, postulate the superiority of certain groups relative to others but “merely” the danger of eradicating frontiers, and the incompatibility of traditions and lifestyles. This conceptualization captures the veiled nature of neo-racism. Neo-racism thrives on the stealthy expressions of prejudice such as systemic disparities, implicit biases, and micro-aggressions. There are reports of rising racism in football stadia, with team opponents being considered as the ‘other’, yet the underlying issues are racial. Such subtleties, although seemingly minor, convey derogatory messages and continue to inflict emotional harm. The systemic disparities it is associated with are also not glaringly discriminatory, yet they perpetuate inequalities and racial outcomes. These insidious forms of discrimination and prejudice coalesce, creating an environment where disparities persist.

Neo-Racism and the Guise of Color Blindness

Neo-racism tends to hide its bigoted foundations behind the veil of color blindness, wherein institutions or individuals claim to be impartial while covertly promoting racial discrimination. The United States Supreme Court was reported to have recently ended the systemic consideration of race in the admissions process. This exemplifies the deceptive and insidious nature of neo-racism, which allows it to often go unnoticed. Color-blindness is an ideology where race is considered immaterial (Annamma, et al., 2017). The veil of color blindness implies a neutral position, discounting race. Nonetheless, it hides deeper discriminatory behaviors and biases. In their critical review of the color-blindness ideology, Annamma, Jackson, and Morrison (2017) define the ideology as a tool to maintain white supremacy. Color blindness preserves white supremacy by sustaining the political, economic, and social advantages that white people hold over other races.

While institutions and individuals may claim an inability to see color, this very claim serves to conceal existing systemic inequalities. It is a veil that prevents that acknowledgment of existing disparities, thusly obstructing requisite action to correct them. This ideology allows for the validation of inaction that drives the system of racial inequaliities forward.  The failure to address the material conditions of race is purposeful, not passive (Gotanda, 1991). Within the context of white supremacy, this evasion is a force whose power attacks racial remediation while defending structural racism. Accordingly, neo-racism obscures real intentions and prevents honest conversations regarding racial issues.

Structural and institutional Reinforcement

Much of the power of neo-racism stems from structural and institutional reinforcement, perpetuating racial disparities and embedding discriminatory beliefs within society. The intuition in this case is that systemic factors prevent authentic progress towards inclusivity and racial equality. According to this United Nations publication, neo-racism is deeply entrenched within structures and institutions and this is how it survives through discriminatory practices, unequal opportunities, and biased policies. The relevant policies seem neutral, yet they continue to disproportionately impact marginalized groups and perpetuate racial discrimination. Unequal opportunities in housing, education and employment, while not explicitly discriminatory, uphold social and economic gaps along racial lines. The existence of discriminatory practices for instance racial profiling within law enforcement reinforce systemic disparities and propagate racial prejudice. In sum, these structural and institutional elements strengthen neo-racism, obstructing impactful progress towards racial inclusivity and equity. To address neo-racism, these pervasive elements must be acknowledged and challenged.

Deconstructing Myths

The Absence of Intent

One of the counterarguments against the pervasiveness of neo-racism is that neo-racism does not have harmful intentions. This counterargument is also based on the idea that behaviors and actions driven by societal conditioning or unconscious biases are not as harmful relative to intentional or deliberate acts of racism. Proposers of this idea therefore posit that because person participating in neo-racist behavior tend to do so without malice, the implications are not as severe. However, it is critical to acknowledge that while intent is indeed a pivotal factor when evaluating harm, it cannot be considered as the exclusive criterion (Tougas, et al., 2004). Whether intentional or not, neo-racism has detrimental and tangible consequences on marginalized groups. Neo-racism’s subtle manifestations reinforce inequality and racial disparities, the idea of those promoting it not doing so intentionally notwithstanding.

The implication of neo-racism is systemic, impacting societal structures, communities, and individual. A singular focus on intent disregards the consequences of these biases and impedes efforts to correct and abolish racial inequalities. To address neo-racism, it is imperative that a comprehensive approach be adopted, particularly one that acknowledges the harm that it perpetuates, despite the intent.

Personal Responsibility

Some also argue that people need to be personally liable for their actions and perceptions, implying that the burden of combating neo-racism is solely on the individual. Those in favor of this position submit that through focusing on conscious actions and self-awareness, there is no reason to address neo-racism at the societal level. However, it is important to note that addressing neo-racism necessitates a dual approach, one that includes both systemic change and individual responsibility. While personal responsibility is important, it needs to be accompanied with systemic changes for it to be effective (Josey, 2010). It is clear that systemic factors promote racial inequalities and disparities, thusly preventing the progress of marginalized communities. Therefore, even as individuals are responsible for their biases and actions, they must also pursue collective action at the societal level so as to change and challenge the systems that sustain neo-racism. Neo-racism is founded on deeply-ingrained practices of discrimination and these need to be dismantled in order to create a more inclusive and equitable society. In essence, a comprehensive strategy to combat neo-racism is one that promotes individual accountability while also championing systemic transformations. To ignore systemic contributions to neo-racism can be conflated to perpetuating the cycle of racial prejudice.


The contemporary society is dealing with a new form of racism, termed by some as differential racism. It presents itself in such subtle ways that make it difficult to identify and confront. This essay has argued that although neo-racism presents itself as an indirect form of racial discrimination in the modern world, its subtle nature lies within the reinforcement of discriminatory systemic structures, attitudes, and beliefs and persistently promote to disparities that prevent authentic progress towards inclusivity and equality. It has been established that there is indeed neo-racism, neo-racism tends to thrive under the guise of color blindness, and that neo-racism is perpetuated through societal and institutional structures.


Annamma, S. A., Jackson, D. D. & Morrison, D., 2017. Conceptualizing color-evasiveness: using disability critical race theory to expand a color-blind racial ideology in education and society. Race Ethnicity and Education, pp. 147-162.

Balibar, E., 2007. Is there a neo-racism?. In: Race and Racialization: Essential Readings. s.l.:Canadian Scholars’ Press, pp. 83-88.

Gotanda, N., 1991. A Critique of ‘Our Constitution is Color-Blind’. Stanford Law Review, pp. 1-68.

Josey, C. S., 2010. Hate speech and identity: An analysis of neo racism and the indexing of identity. Discourse and Society.

Tougas, F. et al., 2004. Two Forms of Racism and Their Related Outcomes: The Bad and the Ugly. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, pp. 177-189.