Racism is often misunderstood when people are given to convoluted expressions of bias borne out of the ideology of White Supremacy and are inadvertent victims of the Post-Racial Color Blind era where "individual behavior" virtually became synonymous with the term, “Racism” and rendered it an abstract concept as opposed to an actual, working system within all American institutions.
For average, everyday white people, much of what is unknown or allowed to be made willfully ignorant of with regard to Racism lies in both the bootstrapping and meritocracy myths perpetuated on these "everyday" white people by those in power who share their color and who subjugate them economically. These myths propagate the notion of achievement to the highest levels of success, attainment of which is only garnered through sweat, blood, tears and hard, hard work. None of these prerequisites of course, are even remotely the reasons for the achievement and distribution of wealth among the ultra-wealthy and powerful, since most of the wealth is heir reinforced all the way from the Gentry class of white people in the burgeoning new states of America during the 17th century to today. Since economic success is the typically the only measurement by which the average white person is able to construe his or her achievement and experience in the United States, many believe economic success is a valid measurement for the existence of Racism in the U.S. When behavior is coupled with this notion of achievement or lack thereof, it presents a warped view of Racism, i.e., bad behavior IS Racism if it exists at all, and if it exists at all, Racism can be eliminated through economic achievement, or bootstrapping.
Racism suggests to the uninformed white person who at least believes Racism may actually exist, merely a sense of an "uneven playing field," which can have the effect of dispelling the notion of "individual achievement." For the cognitively dissonant, it can be devastating to think their personal, individual achievement is *not* based on their "superiority," or "merit" but some sort of institutionally structured mechanism for discrimination. However, that is EXACTLY what Racism was created for and how it is manifested.
Fundamentally, Racism in the U. S. is the systematic subjugation within established institutions in the U.S. through structurally designed denial, discrimination, and limited apportionment of opportunity, equity, equality, and justice, to control the formerly enslaved and their descendants after the Enslavement ended.
Now, fundamentally it operates as:
power plus prejudice and bigotry in the form of White and Whiteness as "superior," and the "Black" formerly enslaved and their descendants as "inferior." Put succinctly, it is based on the ideology of white supremacy in the U.S. and is what sustains the ideology.
Any other definition is inadequate and serves to perpetuate Racism as individual acts of mean behavior, which enables white people to erroneously include Black people in their own oppression.
Once you understand exactly what Racism was, is, and how it operates, you will realize the ideology White Supremacy is the catalyst for the individual behaviors and the system of Racism is the mechanism by which the ideology is sustained.