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What is Systemic Racism?

What is Systemic Racism?

What is systemic racism in the USA? It is the term to describe how formal laws and economic maneuvers exacerbate the substantial inequality suffered by certain ethnic groups in the U.S.

In order to not be racist, is it enough not to insult black people on the street? Not make jokes or talk in stereotypes? Not vote for certain parties? Such actions can definitely be helpful in reducing the racism that individuals express, but the racism that harms is systemic and prevalent in all aspects of society.

Sometimes, society is so permeated with discrimination in everyday life that people do not even realize the devastating domino effect that discriminatory democratic laws or measures have on the lives of those around us. They are our friends, our neighbors, our teachers, our colleagues, our fellow Americans. Yet, the country we share is actively going against black Americans. In this article, we will explore what systemic racism is, where it can be found, and why it is problematic.

Systemic racism in the USA

Thousands of people have taken to the roads, worldwide, to protest against systemic racism. The spark was the murder of an African American man named George Floyd at the hands of a white enforcement agent in the United States. Activists and community members around the world are calling for concrete actions and political commitment to promote real improvements in resolving systemic racism.

The anger that people feel in the United States and throughout the world is being channeled into protests. People are gathering, marching, kneeling, and praying around the world for George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who was murdered on May 25 by a white Minneapolis police officer.

"I Can't Breathe."

T-shirts and face masks recall Floyd's cry of anguish "I can't breathe!" - his request for help when Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd's neck, a method that is not approved by the police, but that Chauvin used for almost 9 minutes. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd.

Protesters Insist: "Black lives matter."

The signs held up across the world say, "Black lives matter." This phrase expresses the forgotten truth that gives its name to the global movement, Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter is a social and political movement that is actively fighting to abolish the systemic racism that has contributed to the death of so many African-Americans.

In fact, in the last ten years alone, the United States has witnessed the deaths of large numbers of black people at the hands of police officers. The protests that started a day after George Floyd's death are in remembrance of all those victims and in honor of all those who suffer from racism on a daily basis.

Dismantling of the Minneapolis Police

As a result of George Floyd's death, the majority at Minneapolis City Council pledged Sunday to dismantle the Police Department. They promised to create a new public security system as they believe that reforming the current Police Department is impossible. This is an admittance by the Minneapolis City Council that the racist attitudes and actions behind George Floyd’s death was not just the racism of one individual police officer, but that racism is present throughout the entire police department’s approach towards black citizens. This is an example of systemic racism that we still see today.

Systemic racism: The American case

All 50 states that make up the United States have been in revolt for days, some more and some less peacefully. All these protests are not about just one case of injustice; it is an expression of the long-boiling and present frustration that African Americans have felt due to systemic racism present in U.S. society.

In a nutshell, systemic racism refers to all those mechanisms rooted in our government system, laws, financial and educational institutions that cause a great disparity between the lives of blacks and whites.

The Redlining - What is it and what does.

One of the most striking examples of systemic racism is the phenomenon of redlining. A few years after the Civil War, authorities began to outline maps of the cities to divide cities into regions based on value and desirability for investment. The process was called redlining, where authorities literally marked out certain areas as undesirable for investments and funding. The neighborhoods that were predominantly labeled as undesirable where black community areas. For a family that lived in an undesirable area, their geographical location prevented them from access to private schools and bank loans.

The Cancer Alley and the Consequences to the Covid-19 Times

A current example of systemic racism is the cancer alley, an area corresponding to different communities and towns located near the Mississippi river, characterized by the presence of many petrochemical plants and a mostly African-American population. The heavy air pollution present in that area is just another example of redlining and has heavy implications on people’s safety, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, which is a respiratory illness that attacks the lungs of those whose lungs are already compromised or strained. Indeed, poor air quality has been shown to lead to more coronavirus cases, which has led to higher incidences of the virus in the black population.

Systemic Racism in Society

Racism is commonplace in various areas of our society: from disparities in access to health care, work, educational opportunities, and more. As this issue is coming to light, many people are trying to explain the complexities of system racism. Because systemic racism isn’t found in what people say or do towards one another, it can be difficult for the average citizen to recognize it. However, it shows itself in the effects that it has on the lives of black Americans. As an example, the process of redlining and other processes of systemic racism that occurred decades prior has effects down to several generations after. If an African-American family lived in a redlined region and did not have access to bank loans or good schools, then their descendants are more likely to be attending low-quality public schools that are underfunded, be low-income, and be living in the same type of area as their ancestors did.

This disparity that trickles down for generations perpetuates and repeats, as African-American children have a difficult time entering into universities simply due to their names sounding ‘non-white’. When they are adults, they are more likely to face difficulties with receiving loans or finance opportunities as banks prefer to lend to white applicants than applicants of color. Banks are more likely to issue loans for white families in difficulty rather than to wealthy African-American families.

As you can see, systemic racism is a series of mechanisms that harm the lives and prospects of an entire group of our society, simply based on the color of their skin. In its extreme, systemic racism has not only taken away opportunities and financial success from black Americans, but has taken away lives. It is time for systemic racism to end for these corrupted system to reform. 


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