What is racism?

Since the perspective of people affected by racism is the most important for us, we want to speak about it with the voice of black Poles.

The article is based on the publication ” Polish Racism” published by the Association of Poles of African Origin.


“I know someone who is black and I haven’t noticed anything bad happening to him.”

“The above sentence illustrates the classic and defensive attitude of denial. Some Poles, a large number of them, do not see the problem. Moreover, they consider racism an over-exaggerated topic, and do not wish to call it by its name. Not being able or unwilling to accept the other person’s perspective, they are stuck in a cognitive paralysis. Meanwhile, racism in Poland exists and has many faces.”


We often think that only evil, thoroughly immoral people can be racists, but unfortunately that is not true. Racism derives its strength from mass social consent. It penetrates the minds of ordinary citizens who think that they have nothing to do with racism. Hence its strength and long duration.”

Not everyone is aware that racism is not only a glaring expression of extremist views of the far right. Racism is a pattern, a simplified thought that we use without noticing the devastation it causes. We reproduce it throughout our lives, often unconsciously and thus contributing in its preservation.”

“What creates nano – racism can escape the attention of even careful observers. It manifests itself in small gestures and behaviors and yet it clearly makes the person receiving them feel that she/he is not welcome. No words are needed, glances are enough.”


After the glances, what follows? Along with the question comes this particular emotion, this tension  that will eventually turn into fear, alienation or loneliness.”



“A one-off event may not be a big deal. However, repetitive, seemingly trivial situations leave traces that can have a devastating effect over time. When black Poles recall their feelings related to childhood, they emphasize constant stress caused by the daily struggle with nanorasism. So is this phenomenon so common?”


“Because what is nano – racism – asks Achille Mbembe, a philosopher and historian of ideas, in his essay “Nanorasism and Narcotherapy” (…) if not a narcotic prejudice towards a different skin color, which manifests itself in seemingly trivial, everyday gestures, in meaningless semi-words, in an apparently involuntary mind, in a joke, in an allusion or insinuation, in a lapse, in an understatement and it must be said, in deliberate malice, in malicious intent, in a meaningful pause or in a verbal attack, in a dark desire of stigmatization, especially of violence, to hurt, to humiliate and to tarnish the person we believe to be someone we do not recognize as one of us?”

Structural racism

…that is, hostility towards minorities based on a specific world view, not on a lack of reflection, as was the case with nanorasism. Structural racism manifests itself in unequal treatment of people from minorities by the state authorities and thus in unequal access to fundamental rights. An obvious example of this kind of racism is the violation of the safety and right to life of black people by the discriminatory actions of the police in the United States.

A less obvious manifestation of structural racism are relocations of Roma communities to low-standard housing or the location of refugee centers far from urban areas.

“You are part of the undifferentiated black mass. It means that when someone shouts “nigga” after you, you know that they instantly strip you of all your individuality – whether you’re a professor, an artist, a director or whoever. Someone called after you “nigga” and your skin color becomes your only label. This applies not only to blacks but in the case of blacks it is very distinctive.”



The seductive power of racism lies in its simplicity, the foundation of which is a binary white-black opposition. It can be said that racism is a tribal phenomenon – groups of people arguing among themselves about belonging to the nation, to the land and to tradition.

This has been there for over 500 years. The phenomenon was used by Hitler who was aware that racism could work in the African colonies because it responded to the human tendency to divide people into superior and inferior groups.”

“Racism goes beyond words. It manifests itself in ways of arguing, in strategies of denying the very existence of racism, in undermining experiences and disregarding the black people’s perspective.”

“After all, it is an inability to acknowledge white privilege. It is a lack of reflection on how the fact of being white makes it impossible to notice the multitude of forms of disregarding, ignoring and humiliating non-white people, present in all communication and in all behaviors.”


“The words used to describe non-white people in Polish reduce these people to objects: “chocolate” for a black woman,  “asphalt” or “bambus” for a black man, and “kebab” for people of Arabic origin.”

“Murzyn” must go 

“Murzyn is a common language term, which due to the ways and contexts of its use became pejorative. In my environment, the word “Murzyn” functions only in negative constructs – it is someone who can be abused, forced to work without dignity, a loser, etc.”

Bumi Phillips, Association of Poles of African Descent

“The best way to find out what a person wants to be called is to ask. Our perspective and our intentions can’t be more important than the feelings of the person to whom we speak.”

“The great majority of black Poles believe that Murzyn is a stigmatizing word and they don’t want to be called by it. When asked about their feelings related to this word, they most often recall negative experiences from their childhood, including physical abuse and humiliation.”


Color Blindness – why it doesn’t work

“When someone says they don’t see my skin color, they forget that what I experienced through my skin color is part of my story. Of course, it would be awesome if the skin color was something that only counts when choosing the color of a tie or suit. But I think it is impossible since people live a maximum of about a hundred years and racism is a political system that has been in place for at least five centuries. It occurs universally…

It is something so deeply rooted in the perception of reality that in the declaration “I do not see your skin color” there is a continuation, a hidden meaning: “I don’t see your skin color because I know that someone once saw your skin color and it was a problem  for him”. Wiktor Bagiński



To define people by skin color is to reduce them only to this trait and thus cut off their personality and identity. Seeing other people only through color is a reproduction of a stereotype, a misconception. It is the resignation from knowing the individual man … “

Sources: Stowarzyszenie Polaków Pochodzenia Afrykańskiego – „Rasizm po polsku”. SPPA: www.facebook.com/SPPA.
Buy a book: how2.shop/produkt/rasizm-po-polsku