Most of the time, when mainstream media outlets feature a news item about racism, they frame the story as being about an individual act of prejudice. A celebrity uses a racial slur or makes a derogatory comment about people of color, for instance.
Majority culture clergy often use this approach as well. When white pastors preach against racism, they challenge the members of their congregations to root out the sin of racism from their hearts.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with either of these approaches. I’m not opposed to public figures being called out for their overtly racist comments. And I believe it’s important for each of us to examine our own souls in order to find and fight the prejudice lurking there.
The problem is, racism is a much bigger issue than that. Racism is about centuries of oppression embedded in the very fabric of our society (including our churches) and institutionalized in our laws and criminal justice system.
Check out the resources below to learn more.
Social scientists define racism as a multidimensional, highly adaptive system—a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources among racial groups. The group that controls the institutions controls the distribution and embeds its racial bias into the fabric of society. In the U.S., while individual whites might be against racism, they still benefit from their group’s control…This distinction—between individual prejudice and a system of unequal institutionalized racial power—is fundamental. One cannot understand how racism functions in the U.S. today if one ignores group power relations…Let me be clear. I don’t see myself or other whites as bad. Racism is a system that we did not create, but it’s one that we did inherit. We must take responsibility to see and challenge it both within and around us.”From “What Does It Mean To Be White?” by Dr. Robin DiAngelo
FEATURED VIDEO: Moving The Race Conversation Forward
VIDEO PLAYLIST: What Is Systemic Racism? (curated by Race Forward)
VIDEO PLAYLIST: Racism Is About Systemic Injustice
ARTICLE: America: Individual Effort Is Not Going To Help Us Address Racism by Camille Busette
TWITTER THREAD: A collection of researched-based articles about the history of systemic racism against the Black community by The Brookings Institution
ESSAY: The Case For Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
- From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton
- A Terrible Thing To Waste: Environmental Racism And Its Assault On The American Mind by Harriet A. Washington
- Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
- When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson