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Institutional Racism: An Insight and Solutions

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Chanler Chuman

Professor Jason Ziebart

ENG 111

8 December 2016

Institutional Racism: An Insight and Solutions

        Institutional racism is an issue that has plagued the United States since its founding. Institutional racism can be defined as a pattern of social institutions giving negative treatment to groups of people based on their race. Institutional racism can be found in various systems throughout the United States. These systems include, but are not limited to: the criminal justice system, the judicial system, the education system, and the workplace. Institutional racism is not only damaging to the lives of people of color though, it damages society as a whole. Many people are under the misconception that institutional racism is an issue that is too large to be solved. However, larger social issues have been resolved in the past through progressive governing and social change through education. Institutional Racism is an issue that is existent within multiple systems (such as education, criminal justice, and the workplace) in America, and it can be lessened through the education of the American people and through reformation of the criminal justice system.

        The education system is most often the first system in which people of color face institutional racism. It also where the hindrance to living a comfortable and successful life finds its roots. The education system disadvantages African Americans more than any other race. Pre-school, a prime time in a child’s life for learning and development, is where institutional racism begins in terms of the education system. Black children in preschool represent approximately half of out-of-school suspensions, but only make up eighteen percent of the population. This trend carries into grades K-12, where African Americans make up forty percent of any school expulsions. In fact, a minorities make up a majority of the out-of-school suspensions (Nesbit). However, the racism continues beyond grade school. Institutional racism is prominent in many universities and colleges in the United States. Similarly to grade school, many people of color, African Americans in particular, experience a negative racial climate, as well as microaggressions when attending higher education facilities. As reported by Carroll and a plethora of other accredited researchers, a positive racial climate includes: “the inclusion of students, faculty, and administrators of color,” “a curriculum that reflects the historical and contemporary experiences of people of color,” “programs to support the recruitment, retention and graduation of students of color,” and “a college/university mission that reinforces the institution's commitment
to pluralism.” It has been concluded by these same researchers that these elements are not likely to exist on college campuses (Solorzano, 62). When African Americans are receiving their education in a less than ideal environment compared to their white counterparts, they are considered victims of institutional racism. The disadvantages that people of color face when receiving their education not only keep them from reaching maximum potential academically, but these disadvantages follow them into their future.

        The education that an individual receives follows them into the workplace. Therefore, the disadvantages that people of color faced when receiving their education follows them into the workplace too. Black graduates are approximately twice more likely to have a hard time finding a job than whites and the jobless rate of blacks is double that of whites. While some might attribute this to laziness or coincidence, it can be proved that is attributed to racism because of an independent study that shows individuals with black-sounding names have to send out many more applications than whites just to receive word back (Nesbit). This shows the blatant prejudice that many employers have, even if they may not know that they have it or are not doing it intentionally. After successfully entering the workforce, the racism does not end. In 2015, black and Hispanic men earned an average of fifteen dollars an hour and fourteen dollars an hour, respectively, compared to the twenty-one dollars an hour that white males average earning. The wage gap between women of color and women of white descent is just as comparable, thirteen dollars an hour for blacks and twelve dollars an hour for Hispanics compared to the seventeen dollars an hour that white women average (Patten). These wage gaps affect the comfortability of life for blacks and other minorities. It contributes to the poverty level of minorities, and in turn, their comfortability of life. Only 43 percent of black people enjoy the privilege of owning a home, while 73 percent of white people possess this same privilege. What’s even more concerning is the median household income gap, which is $91,000 for whites and $7,000 for blacks (Nesbit). These large gaps in wealth between minorities and whites affects more than just minorities. Society as a whole is infected when injustice and inequality are prominent; the overall productivity and standard of living is lessened.

        The criminal justice system, as well as the judicial system, are the most controversial and harmful when it comes to institutional racism. They are systems in America that are the most notorious for racist practices and discrimination, and are covered heavily by the media. Many citizens are under the misconception that blacks are incarcerated at higher rates because they are more prone to violence and crime, but this is highly untrue. While blacks only make up 13 percent of the population (compared to the 64% of white people), they make up 40 percent of the jail population compared to the 39 percent of white people, which means that they are five more times as likely to get incarcerated. To further disprove the stereotype, black people are more likely to be arrested than white people even when the same crime is committed. For example, black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana use, even though both races use the illegal drug at the same rate (Farbota). The reason for this statistic can be attributed to even more institutional racism. Blacks are three times more likely to be searched when at a traffic stop and are more likely to be pulled over, which leads to being searched. When it comes to courts and sentencing, the odds are highly stacked against blacks. There is racial bias in jury selection, as black jurors are illegally turned away as much as 80 percent of the time. This leads to harsher punishment for blacks than whites even when the same or very similar crimes are committed; black people usually stay in jail for up to 20 percent longer. On top of this, they are 38 percent more likely to receive the death penalty and are twice as likely to receive the death penalty for murdering a white person than a white person is for killing a black person (Nesbit). This implies that the American judicial system is likely to consider people for worse punishments solely because of their color. While institutional racism in the criminal justice system is crippling the black race and other minorities, it is crippling society too.

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