The United States was founded as a racist society, thus racism is embedded in all social institutions, structures, and social relations within our society. Today, systemic racism is composed of intersecting, overlapping, and codependent racist institutions, policies, ideas, and behaviors that give an unjust amount of resources, rights, and power to white people while denying them to people of color.
The most important piece of the definition of systemic racism is that “racism is embedded in all institution, structures, and social relation within our society”. It can be exampled by “policies, ideas, and behaviors”. This concept is not an attempt to blame all white people for the injustices that minorities face, but to hold those in power accountable for their actions.
In my first debate about the reality of systemic racism, a follower made the statement that “There are no policies that hinder minorities. An example would be if the government said that no minority could attend college, or that blacks couldn’t hold certain jobs..”. It would be so awesome if our government boldly confessed its institutional racism in that manner. Think of Systemic Racism as your passive aggressive friend; they display an unassertive amount of aggression and negativity, yet you can still infer that they are angry towards you. Well, government officials do not publicly state “We are creating this law to hinder minorities”, but through data we can conclude that minorities are the target of such policies that hinder their economic success. I have highlighted 3 areas where systemic racism takes place.
In America, schools with a lot of minority students are chronically underfunded. In 2015, data scientist David Mosenkis conducted a study using funding data for 500 school districts in the state of Pennsylvania. Mosenkis compiled his data into two graphs:
The first displays black dots (representing districts with no white students) and white dots (representing districts with 100% white students). It can be seen that “at any given poverty level, districts that have a higher proportion of white students get substantially higher funding than districts that have more minority students”.
The second graph displays data on funding per student by race and poverty level. The Brown bars represent less white districts and the yellow represents more white districts. You can see that in the 50–60% poverty decile, whiter districts received $2,607 more per student than districts with more minorities.
How is this systemic racism? Predominately white school districts in the same poverty decile as predominately minority school districts are receiving more funding. This is an issue seen all around the country. Scarce funding leaves schools with little money or resources to educate their students therefore, low income minorities are often left in failing urban public schools with little hope of attending college. In 2015, the percentage of whites obtaining a bachelors degree was 36.2 percent; blacks: 22.5 percent; hispanics: 15.5 percent. This systemic racism makes it nearly impossible to end the poverty cycle.
The systemic racism in education explains why minority unemployment rates are significantly higher than whites. The bureau of Labor Statistics released a recent Labor Force Statistics Survey, which breaks down unemployment by age, sex, and race using data from 2016. I focused only on the ages 25–34 because at this age, it is acceptable by society to have graduated from college and upon approaching middle age; you should have a career by this point in your life. Here are the unemployment percentages by race:
As you can see, there are 5.8% more blacks unemployed than whites in the age group where individuals should be the most successful.
The differences in education, which causes unemployment, also relates to the wealth gap. In my article, Wake up to ‘Rise Up’, I briefly described these financial discrepancies between “economically successful” Black Americans, and the rest of America. Based on 2015 data, the number one city where blacks were doing the best economically was Atlanta, Georgia. The median household income for blacks was roughly $28,800 less than the estimate for all of Atlanta. In the same year, the median household income for blacks was roughly $26,457 less than all of the United States. In 2014, Hispanic’s median household income was $45,148; roughly $17,802 less than their white counterparts.
Systemic racism is a broad term used to describe many instances in America where white Americans are given the “upper hand” to success in this country while minorities struggle to break the poverty cycle. While I only highlighted 3 topics, there are others including: home ownership, incarceration, war on drugs, and generational debt. In conclusion, I will leave you with this question: How do Black American’s overcome a system that is set up for us to fail?
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