Institutional racism is generally defined as s a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. Institutional racism is different from individual or personally mediated racism wherein the latter is the racially prejudiced action, discrimination, stereotyping and omission directed towards people of different race or ethnicity, while the former is the direct or indirect practices within institutions that put people from different races or ethnicities at a certain disadvantage. Institutional racism is difficult to detect or perceive in societies or institutions because the practice is obscured as the “accepted” or “normal” policy of individuals or group of individuals within institutions or social groups.
Institutional racism is a subtle yet widespread form of racism in developed countries today. We take one of the foremost developed countries as an example: the United States. In the United States, institutional racism has extensively affected different sectors and aspects of society and human living such as education, housing, occupation and financial options, health and environment, justice and civil service.
In the field of education, non-White students are put in several disadvantageous situations. Most of them have limited access to quality education due to poverty and limited government support. Even for those colored students who have access to good private or public schools, their academic hurdle is more difficult than the White students. Faculties and school policies most of the time lack racial sensitivity and fail to cater to the different needs and learning capacities of their non-White students. Standardized testing seems anything but “standardized” when it comes to testing examinees of different races. Non-White examinees are mostly unequipped or ill-equipped to take standardized tests because of their usually disadvantageous learning environments. Such disparity in the access to quality education stem directly or indirectly from institutional racism.
Although housing is considered as one of the basic needs of man, regardless of race, the quality of housing and access to housing loans in the US can vary with regard to race. Beginning at the early 1900s, banks have profiled different neighborhoods according to the financial capacity of the occupants and the risk for loan defaults of the neighborhood areas. The practice is tagged as “redlining”, and was particularly biased against non-White residents who want to avail of housing loans. As a result of this practice, only white middle-class Americans were able to access housing loans and were able to move to nicer houses in the suburbs and the predominantly African-American neighborhoods are left behind and slowly degrading. Even for government-subsidized housing projects, non-White people have lower access to these projects than their White counterparts. Marginalization and discrimination in the access to good and secure housing, which is the shelter of the basic social institution – family, often lead to poverty; and poverty is correlated with crime, making impoverished neighborhoods unsafe and further degrading the American family. Such is the situation of most non-White neighborhoods placed in the fringes of society.
In the field of labor and occupation, disparities can often be found among different races. A recent statistical data for 2016 from the US Department of Labor, specifically the Bureau of Labor Statistics, indicates that White, Black and Hispanic have different demographical numbers when it comes to different fields of occupation and labor. For example, in the field of management, professional, and related occupations, White, Black and Hispanic respectively have 36.3, 24.9 and 18.3 employment ratings. In terms of work-related and government mandated benefits, non-White workers face difficulties in accessing and receiving these benefits from their business institutions and employers.
The field of public and civil service is also not free of institutional racism. Hiring for civil service titles or positions should essentially be non-racially biased and should be based on the merit of the applicant. However, the practice of preferential hiring treatment according to race can still be found in some titles or positions even today. Different federal institutions have different positions when it comes to racial diversity among their ranks. Police and Fire Departments across the United States are particularly slow to change their insular culture which limited the racial diversity among their ranks. Public offices and positions are also slow to open up opportunities for career growth for colored public servants. The appointment of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States is a substantial evidence of the slow acceptance of political institutions of colored public servants or politicians.
Racism has taken on many forms with the passage of times. Institutional racism is among the biggest problems that hamper the human development, in an indirect sense. High infant mortality among colored citizens is a result of lack of power, food, shelter and access to medical supplies and facilities. Physical, emotional and mental detriments among non-White citizens are also caused by poverty, discrimination and racial prejudice. We need to find ways to effectively put an end to this degrading practice. We all live on one earth, under the same sun, and breathe the same air. Therefore, we should coexist with equality, respect and harmony. If racism has to end, it has to end now.
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