Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Conflict Resolution

First Advisor

Karen Ross

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Pugh

Third Advisor

Sofya Aptekar


This study explores racism through the eyes of the one that experiences it. If different types of racism have already been established, the initial premise of the study is that some factors make its experience unique, such as one individual’s markers of identity and his history.

Data have been collected from in-depth interviews with ten participants belonging to five ethnic groups (Latino, African American, Asian, African and Middle Eastern). Those participants were asked to reflect on a specific moment when they witnessed racism, and on why it made them think that event in particular was racist. Then, they were asked about what in their background helps shape their reaction to racism in general.

The results of the study seem to support the idea that experiences of racism are shaped by people’s social background, but also by how this background is viewed by outsiders. Moreover, immigrant status is an important characteristic in explaining differences in experiences of individuals sharing other elements of their social backgrounds.

To conclude, introducing the perspective of those who experience racism in studying this topic leads us to rethink what we define as racism, even if at the same time it adds one level of complexity. Should we now only consider racism in relation to the individual that was experiencing the act, and not in relation to the type of act that has been committed? Should we keep looking for other criteria to nuance the definition of racism, of at least its experience? If is it understandable that these questions may cause practical issues, they nonetheless invite us to always question, reconsider or broaden our understanding of racism.