In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Racism and Communication

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Racism and Discourse
  • Raciolinguistic Ideology and (Reverse) Linguistic Stereotyping
  • Racism and Language Education
  • Racism and Teachers’ Lives
  • Racism in Media and Online Communication

Communication Racism and Communication
Ryuko Kubota, Meghan Corella
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0280


Manifestations of racism in communication have been studied in many disciplines, including anthropology, applied linguistics, communication studies, education, journalism, law, psychology, sociology, and more. Racism works to maintain hierarchies of power between groups of people characterized by perceived racial differences through acts and mechanisms of inferiorization, denigration, marginalization, and exclusion. Racism is embedded and reproduced in language, discourse, knowledge, social practices, and institutional structures. While racism is typically understood as individual indignities, which are often called racial microaggressions, it also takes the form of institutional racism, as seen in unequal access and representations within various social domains, including criminal justice, education, employment, entertainment, healthcare, housing, politics, and more. Additionally, epistemological racism, which is entrenched in our knowledge system as seen in school curricula or academic research, legitimates the perspectives derived from or produced by a certain racial group while marginalizing or erasing others. These forms of racism are intertwined, shaping people’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in their everyday communicative experiences. In understanding racism, it is necessary to recognize intersectionality—a perspective that individual and group oppression cannot be explained solely in terms of race, but rather in combination with other identity categories, including gender, class, language, nationality, sexuality, religion, and (dis)ability. Just as racism has multiple meanings and manifestations, communication can be conceptualized in many ways. While communication can be broadly understood as conveying and interpreting meanings, it takes place in many forms through multiple means for various purposes in diverse contexts. People engage in communication using language and other semiotic resources, which can be categorized into oral, written, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modes. The ways these modes are combined shape communication. Communication can also take place through various media, including print, performance, and information technology. People communicate face to face or in cyberspace. The settings in which communication occurs are diverse as well. They can be public spaces, such as schools, universities, and workplaces, as well as private homes or other personal spaces. In these contexts, various forms of racism are communicated, consumed, sedimented, and contested in overt and covert ways. As shown in the works reviewed here, different forms of racism are expressed and enacted through various modes and means of communication in diverse contexts, and they perpetuate the system of domination and subordination.

General Overviews

Racism caused, spread, and resisted through various modes and contexts of communication is addressed in various research fields rather than in a tightly defined inquiry area. As such, identifying publications that provide a comprehensive overview of this topic is a challenge. Nonetheless, the following three volumes offer general ideas about the connections between racism and communication. Lippi-Green 2012 provides discussions on language ideologies and discrimination in the United States, while Alim, et al. 2020 discusses race, racialization, and racism from linguistic anthropology perspectives. Kubota and Lin 2009 examines race, racialization, and racism as manifested in language education in various geographical and institutional contexts.

  • Alim, H. Samy, Angela Reyes, and Paul V. Kroskrity, eds. 2020. The Oxford handbook of language and race. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Taking a linguistic anthropological approach, this large volume contains twenty-one chapters exploring issues of not only racism but also race and racialization in language-based scholarship. The authors employ various conceptual frames, including history, language ideologies, coloniality, and political economy. The book covers multiple countries in the world, such as Angola, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Italy, Liberia, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

  • Kubota, Ryuko, and Angel Lin, eds. 2009. Race, culture, and identities in second language education: Exploring critically engaged practice. New York: Routledge.

    This edited volume addresses how racialization and racism are manifested in language teaching and learning in various parts of the world. Chapters highlight how racial biases and injustices are reflected in teacher and learner identity, institutional practices, pervasive stereotypes, language ideology, the superiority of Whiteness, colorblind discourses, language-in-education policies, and teaching materials. The book illuminates the importance of explicitly addressing racism in language education.

  • Lippi-Green, Rosina. 2012. English with an accent. 2d ed. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203348802

    In this book, Lippi-Green provides theoretical discussions and concrete examples of how standard language ideology in the United States negatively impacts the lives of people from Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Jewish, and Muslim backgrounds. The author unpacks linguistic discrimination targeted to these racialized people by examining various contexts and topics, such as education, politics, courtrooms, housing, and Disney animation films.

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