Clarifying Institutional Racism

To start a brouhaha, just mention institutional racism, and watch the sparks start flying. That topic is debated in part because people have different ideas as to what institutional racism is. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here is the definition of “institutional racism” given by the Aspen Institute: “Institutional racism refers to the policies and practices within and across institutions that, intentionally or not, produce outcomes that chronically favor, or put a racial group at a disadvantage.”

According to this definition, institutional racism can occur even if there is no intent to produce an outcome that favors one race over another. Institutional racism can occur even if members of an institution aren’t individually racist.

As stated by the American Psychological Association, “Policies which result in unequal outcomes for individuals of different races can also be considered a form of institutional racism.” As the National Association of Social Workers defines it, institutional racism “is the combination of polices, practices, or procedures embedded in bureaucratic structure that systematically lead to unequal outcomes for groups of people.”

Institutional racism doesn’t necessarily imply that it is a phenomenon limited to only one racial group. For example, institutional racism is clearly seen in the modern-day existence of all-black fraternities and sororities. During an era in which racial integration is supposed to be the desired norm, such fraternities and sororities appear to contradict the principle that “all men are created equal”. These days, an organization for blacks only is just as racist as an organization for whites only. Whenever people say or imply that they don’t want to have you as one of their members because you aren’t the same race as them, racism has reared its ugly head.

Sometimes, people aren’t aware of the non-verbal messages that they send out to others of different races. For example, when a fraternity boasts about being the only modern-day fraternity to originate in the antebellum South, outsiders might interpret that boast to mean that the fraternity is proud to have a racist past, because plenty of people equate the antebellum South with racism. The same is true whenever a fraternity makes the Confederate battle flag one of its symbols. Fraternity members may say that they are racially inclusive, but their symbols may give others the opposite impression, resulting in others avoiding pledging that fraternity, in turn resulting in few people of other races being in that fraternity.

Even the behavior of an organization can give a racist message. This happens when an organization holds a party that promotes a racial stereotype.

Likewise, when an an organization advertises itself as being a black organization, the message given is that non-blacks aren’t welcome in that organization or that non-blacks should stay away. The Black Entertainment Television network, for example, might have a larger audience (hence, better ratings) if it had a name that wasn’t race-specific.

If one wants to see cases of institutional racism in politics, then one merely needs to look at the Democrat policies that keep minority children trapped in poorly-performing schools, the Democrat regulations that prevent minority entrepreneurs from starting their own businesses, the Democrat-promoted laws that drive up the unemployment rate among minorities, the Democrat philosophy which says that minorities can’t obtain photo IDs for themselves and can’t survive life unless the government is constantly acting as their nanny.

Some of the same people who complain about institutional racism also support those who create it. Ironic isn’t it?

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