What is race? What is racism? What is racist?
I have said before in this and other fora that the best definitions I have come across are stated by Kwame Anthony Appiah in his recent book "In My Father's House" . I think his ideas are significant because of the depth and scope of his knowledge and experience and the fact that he is an internationally recognized scholar. I believe him capable of making his points clearly at any level of discourse. Unfortunately he's not on this particular distribution. So I will paraphrase.
All forms of racism build from the premise of racialism. Notice that racialism
is not saying anything 'good' or 'bad' about races just that mutually exclusive
races absolutely exist and divide the species. The racialist would argue
that you could trace the bloodlines of Jews throughout history and that
you can definitely determine the 'jewness' of any human being according
to his racial 'essence'.
A racialist does not necessarily believe that the races, as we understand them in America are complete. He may say that there are, in actuality, 37 races. We just don't know what they are yet. The racialist's point however is that race, whatever it turns out to be, is deterministic of human behavior and that we need to know.
I use these definitions for a purpose. My interest is in generating and maintaining anti-racist praxis in individuals for the primary purposes of ridding racism from American politics. Thus it is important that these categories work for political ideologies as well as the thoughts of individuals. An individual bigot may be converted for better or worse any day of the week, but a policy enacted by like-minded individuals at any moment in time survives the individual.
Thus whether or not one individually holds racist ideas, the existence of racist policies is that citizen's responsibility.