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Racism in the United States

This country has a long and troubled history marked by pervasive forms of oppression and Racism. In a broad sense, these terms refer to deeply ingrained racist thinking, practices, and actions that are embedded in the core foundations of American society and have persisted over centuries and continue to this day. They are also known as structural Racism and institutional Racism.

The fight against racial injustice in the United States came to a head once more in the year 2020 after the deaths of numerous African-American men and women, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, amongst many others. Ben Crump, an attorney who is a fervent supporter of equality, justice, and civil rights, represents the Floyd, Taylor, and Arbery families, in addition to many other families of people who have been killed, injured, or marginalized as a result of institutionalized Racism and injustice.

This article sheds light on the issue of racial injustice in the United States and describes the myriad of ways in which it impacts the lives, livelihoods, and health of people of African descent. After finishing this book, the audience will have a heightened awareness of the ways in which the complex web of systemic inequities in the United States works against Black Americans.

Racial Injustice Definition

To get a better grasp on how the concept of racial injustice plays a role in the daily lives of people of colour living in the United States, it is necessary to first comprehend what is meant by the term. It is an instance of racial injustice whenever a person is prevented from exercising their constitutional rights on the basis of the colour of their skin. This form of discrimination is woven into the very fabric of our society, from our economy to our healthcare system to our education system, regardless of whether or not it is obvious.

Institutional and Systemic Racism in America

Racism in America

If you consider modern manifestations of Racism such as police brutality, racial profiling, and racial disparities to be the leaves or fruit of white supremacy, then the roots of this symbolic tree would be colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow, and other historical examples of structural inequality that have resulted in the subjugation of people of colour and people of African descent.

In today’s society, the phrases “institutional racism” and “systemic racism” are frequently used synonymously to refer to extensive structures of racial oppression that can be found in a variety of social and other institutions. Anti-Black Racism, on the other hand, is fundamentally the same as it was decades ago, despite the fact that some contemporary forms of discrimination or Racism may look or seem new to some people.

To differentiate between individual and institutional Racism, Black Power activists Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton coined the term “institutional racism” in their book Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (1967) during the Black Power movement of the 1960s. The book was published in 1967.

In Tears We Cannot Stop, Michael Eric Dyson reminds us that “institutional racism requires neither conscious effort nor individual intent.” This is an important point to remember.

In a nutshell, Racism permeates every facet of our society, resulting in social, economic, and political disparities that are inextricably linked to the nation’s history. Billie Holiday wrote a song in 1939 called “Strange Fruit,” in which she referred to the lynching of African American people in the South. According to the concept of systemic Racism, the seeds for this “strange fruit” were planted a long time ago, and the fruit itself is continuing to rot in our present day.

The senseless murder of George Floyd in this day and age serves as a tragic example of that.

Discrimination Is Pervasive in American Life

Some people are under the impression that Racism is primarily an individual problem or that people are the only ones who engage in racist behaviour. They define Racism as the use of racial slurs such as the word “n,” as well as overt demonstrations of white supremacy such as the rally called “Unite the Right” that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. However, Racism also has a sneaky side to it. The colour of our skin has a significant impact on virtually every aspect of our lives.

According to a report that was published by the Urban Institute in the year 2020, “Lower housing equity contributes to less overall wealth for Black and Hispanic households.” According to Neal and McCargo’s research, Black and Hispanic homeowners rely more heavily on housing equity to increase their overall net worth than other homeowners do.

Consider the findings of the 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, which found that people of African descent make up a disproportionately high percentage (40%) of the homeless population despite accounting for only 13% of the total population in the United States.

Furthermore, the most recent statistics paint a bleak picture of racial discrimination that is deeply ingrained in the criminal justice system. In cases involving murder, innocent black people have a seven times higher risk of being wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned than innocent white people do. In addition to this, more than half of the people who are currently on death row are people of African descent. And while we’re on the subject, more than half of the people who had their death sentences overturned since 1973 were people of African descent.

Systemic Racism can be seen in every aspect of our society, from the gentrification of our cities to the fact that black mothers are far more likely to die in childbirth in our hospitals. The point is that Racism affects almost every aspect of life in the United States, and it can be seen in almost every aspect of our society. There is no other place where this is more obvious than in the widespread use of surveillance and incarceration against people of colour.

Read More: The Role of Civil Rights Laws in Combating Police Brutality 2023

Environmental Injustice in America

Robert Bullard, known as the “Father of Environmental Justice,” defines environmental Racism in his article “The Threat of Environmental Racism” as “any environmental policy, practice, or directive that differentially effects or disadvantages (whether intended or unintended) individual groups, or communities based on color.”

People in Flint, Michigan, who were mostly Black and all low-income, were poisoned by lead in their drinking water during the recent water crisis. “Racism played a significant role in creating the conditions that allowed the lead contamination to happen and in the failure to recognize and address it in a timely manner,” states a report from the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Time magazine’s “Flint Officials Must Pay for Poisoning Black, Poor Community” the article quotes civil rights attorney and community donor Ben Crump as saying it best: Drug dealers were blamed for poisoning low-income and minority neighbourhoods, so politicians, judges, prosecutors, and police declared war on them in the 1980s. Officials in Flint helped poison a predominantly Black and low-income neighbourhood.

Studies have shown that Black people are more likely to breathe polluted air, another environmental hazard to which they are disproportionately exposed. Water and air are essential to life, but in some areas, Black people are not allowed to use either of them without fear of illness.

Black people in low-income areas “faced higher risk from particle pollution,” according to EPA research cited by the American Lung Association (“Disparities in the Impact of Air Pollution”). Princeton University found in 2017 that residential segregation increases Black children’s exposure to polluted air, making them more likely to suffer from asthma than children of other races (their rate was double that of non-black children in 2010).

In a nutshell, Black people may find it impossible to live because of systemic Racism in its many forms. These two instances of environmental injustice illustrate how economic disenfranchisement, unequal access to housing, segregation, and limited political power are all rooted in a history of oppression against Black people.

Black LGBTQ Discrimination in America

Everyone of African descent suffers the effects of systemic Racism, but people with low incomes and the LGBTQ community bear a disproportionate share of the burden. Black LGBTQ people face Racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and anti-queer violence and discrimination.

White privilege is often re-established within the LGBTQ community at large. Black queer people may also face hostility and violence from those who share their identity.

Black queer youth have it the roughest. See “Increased Risk of Suicide Attempts Among Black and Latino Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals” in the American Journal of Public Health for more on the disproportionate rate of suicide attempts among queer people of colour compared to their white counterparts.

Nigel Shelby, a teenager who was bullied for being gay and who subsequently committed suicide in April 2019, was told that his sexual orientation “was a choice.” When Nigel died, his mother asked Ben Crump and others to look into what happened. Working on this case reinforced Crump’s view that equal treatment is not just a civil right but a human right as well.

Racial disparities that marginalize and oppress Black communities clearly contribute to the high rates of depression and anxiety among queer Black youth. Nigel and other young people like him should have access to the resources they need to fight institutional Racism and homophobia. Bell Hooks writes in Killing Rage, Ending Racism, “All our silences in the face of racist assaults are acts of complicity.”

By remaining silent about the injustices faced by Black LGBTQ people, we, too, are complicit. Discrimination, housing discrimination, and healthcare disparities all contribute to the economic marginalization of Black LGBTQ people.

In her book “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics,” Cathy J. Cohen writes, “While the politics of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered activists of color might recognize heteronormativity as a primary system of power structuring our lives, it understands that heteronormativity interacts with institutional racism, patriarchy, and class exploitation to define us in numerous ways as marginal and oppressed subjects.”

According to “LGBT Families of Color: Facts at a Glance,” a 2012 report, “32% of children raised by gay male Black couples live in poverty, compared to 13% of children raised by married heterosexual Black parents and 7% of children raised by married heterosexual white parents.”

The economic situation of transgender people of colour is even more precarious. The American Medical Association has declared an epidemic of violence against transgender people of colour. “Injustice at Every Turn” reports that 34% of Black transgender people are poor, while only 9% of Black people overall are.

There has been an increase in attacks on Black transwomen in recent years. At least 26 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been killed by gun violence so far in 2019, with 91% of those killed being Black women. Data collection regarding transgender and non-binary people is incomplete or unreliable, so this number likely understates the true number.

A Black Trans person’s life should be valued as much as any other Black person’s.

Racism and Discrimination in Sports

The history and culture of sports are profoundly affected by racism and racialist thinking, despite the fact that some Americans view sports as somehow immune from racial politics (or think racial politics don’t belong in sports).

Sports have been linked to historical racial subjugation, specifically slavery, as pointed out in numerous scholarly works on the topic, such as William Rhoden’s Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete (2006) and Billy Hawkins’ The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions (2010).

Maintaining white wealth and privilege remains significantly influenced by sports. Regardless of the level, sports and sports culture have the potential to reinforce existing power dynamics and highlight racial inequalities. Nonetheless, there are opportunities for Black activism in sports that cannot be found elsewhere.

Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, became infamous for kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest Black oppression. His and other athletes’ off-the-field activism exemplifies the ongoing relationship between race and sports and follows in the footsteps of athlete activists such as Wilma Rudolph, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and Jim Brown.

Kaepernick started a camp for young people in 2016 called “Know Your Rights Camp,” with the mission “to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization.” Since its inception, his camp has carefully selected an impressive roster of speakers to serve as positive role models for its attendees.

In 2019, Ben Crump wore an “I Know My Rights” T-shirt with pride while addressing a group of Black and Brown children at a camp. It is a powerful testament to Crump’s commitment to social justice that the families of several Black male youths killed by police have sought his counsel.

Read More: The Civil Rights Act of 1991: Strengthening Legal Protections

Injustice in the Workplace

The workplace is not a haven from Racism. You can’t get away from systemic Racism anywhere: at home, in public, or at the office.

Research shows that people of colour are at a disadvantage when applying for jobs. One study from Harvard Business School (“Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation”) found that applicants of colour and Asian descent whose names sounded ethnically distinct had a lower chance of being invited to an interview.

Black workers, even if they succeed in securing employment, may still face discrimination, stereotyping, and even hostility in the workplace. People are often afraid of retaliation when they speak up or file complaints.

Black people face economic, social, and emotional disadvantages due to racial power imbalances in the workplace. In 2018, a Black worker’s salary was 62% lower than that of a white worker’s. To make matters worse, a Black woman’s earnings were 66% lower than those of a white man’s (Business Insider).

It’s important to recognize that Black women are doubly disadvantaged because of their race and gender. They have less access to resources than men do.

Although the term “invisible labour clause” refers to the treatment of all Black people in the workplace, Tsedale M. Melaku focuses on the experiences of Black women lawyers in her book. You Don’t Look Like a Lawyer: Black Women and Systemic Gendered Racism. What she calls the “invisible labour clause” is the “added emotional, mental, and physical labour” that people of African descent perform in order to succeed in the workplace.

African Americans are paid less for doing the same or even more work than whites.

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