What does racism look like?
If you asked twenty different people that question, you’d likely get twenty different responses. Their answers may primarily reflect the individual’s own unique experience, trauma, or background. They may recall specific memories, certain situations where they felt the sting of racism. It may conjure up images of white hoods or racial slurs painted on neighborhood buildings or footage of police brutality.
But no matter what it looks like to each person, the fact of that matter is, it’s there. And while it’s easier or simpler to blame the individual (or individuals) behind the attack, we must take a step backward and look at the larger picture and the invisible systems in place.
We must view racism as an institution.
In the publication “Social Work” by Terry Jones, he explained his view that eliminating racism is about much more than dealing with the acts of person vs. person or group vs. group. Instead, the “roots of institutional racism are hidden in the social, economic, and political systems,” like schools, banks, the housing industry, and private and public employment sources.
It shows up in healthcare, where study after study shows that Black patients do not receive the same quality of treatment as their white counterparts.
It shows up on the University campus, where a Black or brown person is more likely to be questioned or asked for their ID to show proof that “they belong” – something that rarely happened, if ever, to their white classmates.
It shows up when trying to buy or sell a house, where median home values are 55% lower for Black homeowners, and the lost value is estimated to be $156 billion cumulatively in majority-Black neighborhoods.
It shows up anywhere there are systems in place that were designed – and remain unchanged – to benefit one group of people over another.
This means that if we really want to end racism, we must attack it at its core. We must attack the institutions responsible for indoctrinating and enabling racial discrimination. And while it remains essential to call out racism wherever and whenever you see it on an individual level, we’re simply cutting off Hydra’s head; a second one will always grow back. We must overcome the beast itself, and only then will it be conquered.
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