LBV made very good points, and I don't have much to add.
Basically I think how you phrased your question belies a certain bias in what you think racism is, i.e. you have already placed it within very strict bounds. As LBV mentioned, racism is a system of oppression which has the effect of preserving advantages, specifically for the majority race, which in most contexts is the white race due to the recent history of colonialism. (In Japan, for instance, the "Caucasoid" Ainu race is the one that was systematically discriminated against) When you ask whether "intent" is necessary, it shows that you are interested in blaming individuals who practice deliberate racist actions.
1) Racism is bigger than that.
2) There are different degrees of racism. The unintentional racist is probably "less racist" than the intentional one, if that helps you psychologically in thinking about the issue. Most of us are racists to some degree or another. I read about some research recently that showed that even children as young as 6 months old are able to identify people who are like them, and discriminate against those who are not like them, based on criteria as arbitrary as the kind of cereal they choose in the experiment. So a very visual species like human beings would certainly do the same for something like skin colour.
When I entered college, I was sent this book, "Why Are Alll The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" as an orientation reading. The author distinguishes between racism and racial prejudice, and between active racism and passive racism. She compares the system of oppression that is racism as a moving conveyor belt; and even if a white person (who is the beneficiary of this system) does nothing, he will still be moving along on the belt. Anyway, I think that's a good place to start if you want to think more about these issues.
A single flow'r he sent me, since we met./All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet - One perfect rose.
I knew the language of the floweret;/'My fragile leaves,' it said, 'his heart enclose.'
Love long has taken for his amulet/One perfect rose.
Why is it no one ever sent me yet/One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it's always just my luck to get/One perfect rose.
Last edited by moby; Nov 30th, 2012 at 07:33 AM.