Why is racism such a big deal? If the history of America and the current state of America is not enough proof to convince you that racism is the foundation of America or if you are a numbers person and want quantitative proof. This is the post for you. We are going to briefly review every how racism is embedded in every institution that contributes to running America.
Racism in the Political System
To review racism in the political system we first have to review the discriminatory policies and belief systems in America. To name a few of these:
1. Poll taxes that effectively disenfranchised African American Voters.
2. The marginalization of African American soldiers who fought in World War I & II but were treated like second class citizens at home.
3. Black innovators who were barred from filling patents for their inventions.
4. White medical professionals’ exploitation of Black women’s bodies (ex. Henrietta Lacks & J. Marion Sims).
5. Richard & Mildred Loving’s decade fight to legalize interracial marriage.
6. The segregated nature of travel and honestly EVERYTHING in the Jim Crow era.
7. This includes the mandated segregation American cities and schools.
In 1968, during the Civil Rights Act the Kerner commission found the white racism, not Black anger, was the impetus for the widespread civil unrest sweeping the nation. 50 years later, a separate study assessed how much had changed and concluded that conditions had actually worsened.
In 2017, black unemployment was higher than in 1968, as was the rate of incarcerated individuals who were Black. The wealth gap had also increased substantially, with the median white family having ten times more wealth than the median Black family.
Racism in the Criminal Justice System
The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons and jails — a 500% increase over the last forty years. Changes in sentencing law and policy, not changes in crime rates, explain most of this increase. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and fiscal burdens on states to accommodate a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not an effective means of achieving public safety. There are major racial disparities in the criminal justice system.More than 60% of the people in prison today are people of color. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men and Hispanic men are 2.7 times as likely. For black men in their thirties, about 1 in every 12 is in prison or jail on any given day. The rate of imprisonment for Black men is 2,336 per 100,000 while the rate of imprisonment for White men is only 397 per 100,000.
The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons and jails — a 500% increase over the last forty years. Changes in sentencing law and policy, not changes in crime rates, explain most of this increase. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and fiscal burdens on states to accommodate a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not an effective means of achieving public safety.
Racism is Embedded in Corporate America
Corporate America is primarily head by white, cis-gendered males. Yup, most a majority of the Fortune 500 companies are run by white, cis-gendered males. Out of all the Fortune 500 companies there are only 4 Black CEOs. Black professionals are more likely than their White counterparts to be more ambitious in their careers and aspire to a top job, yet nearly 1 in 5 feel someone of their race would never achieve a top job at their companies. They are more likely than any other group to encounter racial prejudice at work & experience certain microaggressions at higher rates than all other professionals. Black men are more likely to be interested in their own ventures. Many Black professionals are thinking about leaving corporate jobs to become entrepreneurs. Among those who do not currently own businesses, Black employees are 3.6 times as likely as their white colleagues to be planning to start their own ventures.
Racism is Embedded in the Education System
Racism in the United States education system starts very early. As early as preschool. How so? Research shows that black preschoolers make up 18% of all preschoolers, but represent almost 50% of all suspensions. Why would this occur? Black students are not consistently “bad,” but studies have found that Black boys as young as 10 are routinely perceived to be significantly older and less innocent. This suspicion of guilt follows Black boys throughout their lives. For example, Black students make up 16% of student enrollment but represent 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to arrest, while white students make up 51% of enrollment, 41% of referred to law enforcement and 39% of those arrested. Additionally, there needs to be a discussion on the School-to-Prison Pipeline programs that are often seen in many schools throughout the United States. As of 2015 there are more than 43,000 school resource officers & other sworn police officers and an additional 39,000 security guard working in the nation’s 84,000 public schools. This is a major issue because these officers are often called to discipline primarily Black and Brown students, to attend to simple altercations. These altercations end up leadign the student to be arrested for assault. And once the student is in the system this continues to recurr, if there are no community programs or other involvement to assist the student. This frustrating cycle is known as school to prison pipeline.
Racism is Embedded in Healthcare System
This topic needs to be discussed today now more than ever, especially as we have learned of the disparities in cases & deaths of COVID-19. Let us discuss how health disparities have always existed and affected Black individuals. The average lifespan for black individuals is 6 years less compared with whites. A Black woman is 22% more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman. A Black woman is 243% more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than a white woman. Black adults are 40 % more likely to have high blood pressure, they are less likely than their non-Hispanic white counterparts to have their blood pressure under control. Black adults are 60 % more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic white adults. Even after controlling for age, gender, marital status, region of residence, employment status, and insurance coverage, Black people have worse health outcomes than whites in nearly every illness category.
The institution in America are racist. They were founded off of racist and white supremacist beliefs and unfortunately have not changed. Although superficially America appears to be all-inclusive, their system continues to be racist and favors white people. It is not something we need to continue questioning, we need to accept this and make drastic changes now. The only way to work around, is by reimagining and recreating a system that benefits all citizens.
How does that look?
- SPREAD AWARENESS. It is clear now more than ever, not everyone understands systemic racism. Once you understand it, you can do something about it
- START A CONVERSATION. With your family and friends. Discuss different biases and how you may be contributing to these situations.
- POLICY CHANGES. Understand the various policies that are in place at a local level that may be contributing to racist tendencies.
- School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Diversity & Inclusion Efforts
- Local policing policies
- VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. On a local & national level. Get to know your representatives, what they stand for and if their intentions are right
- USE YOUR VOICE! It is on ALL of us to create changes. We cannot leave it on our black brothers and sisters to advocate for themselves. We ALL need to work together.
- SIGN PETITIONS. MAKE CALLS. DONATE. If you cannot research policies, I guarantee there’s an organization that’s on it. So donate to them. So many sources to Educate. Advocate. Create Change!
You have the ability to make it a be a change agent to make for our Black brothers and sisters. It can start TODAY.
I want to reiterate:
racism is embedded in the healthcare system
racism is embedded in the criminal justice system
racism is embedded in the education system
racism is embedded in the political system
racism is embedded in corporate america
the institutions of america are racists.
- Williams DR, Rucker TD. Understanding and addressing racial disparities in health care. Health Care Financ Rev. 2000;21(4):75‐90.
- Rosich, Katherine J. 2007. Race, Ethnicity, and the Criminal Justice System. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association. (Available at http://asanet.org.)
- Bell M. (2017) Criminalization of Blackness: Systemic Racism and the Reproduction of Racial Inequality in the US Criminal Justice System. In: Thompson-Miller R., Ducey K. (eds) Systemic Racism. Palgrave Macmillan, New York