Racism and Institutional racism exist in the United States. For the entirety of U.S. history – race, racism, ethnicity and xenophobia have played a role in daily American political life to one degree or another. One cannot read a mainstream news publication without race existing somewhere, somehow on a daily basis. It is a variable that cannot be denied nor ignored. And because it has in fact been ignored as it relates to government and social policies that perpetuate racism, we currently see the result in full force throughout the country.
When I teach political science courses, I ask students which is more important, freedom or equality? Inevitably, students say freedom as it has been ingrained in them through our civil liberties, our liberal rather than social democracy, and our sense of individualism. But Black Americans have never been free like white Americans. They are not free to walk down the street unmolested by police or by other threats to their individual rights as are white Americans. To ignore this historical and contemporary reality is pure denial.
The United States has never emphasized equality as it has freedom. And until we as a people do, we will never be honest and respected purveyors of freedom, as we tell ourselves we are. The words of the governing documents of the United States can be inferred to grant individual freedom to all, despite the fact the U.S. Constitution was silent on the matter of slavery. And because of this glaring constitutional omission, the United States was in fact created and premised upon the notion of white supremacy. And that itself is, by definition, institutionalized structural racism.
To begin with, what is racism? According to Webster:
-a belief that race (Links to an external site.) is the primary determinant (Links to an external site.) of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
-a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
-a political or social system founded on racism
-racial prejudice (Links to an external site.) or discrimination
What is institutional racism?
-Institutional racism: describes the way that institutions discriminate directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, through their structures and organizations to support or maintain racism. (Equal Opportunity Unit, Flinders University)
-Institutional racism (another definition):
-This type of racism occurs in respected and essential forces in society and therefore receives far less public condemnation, e.g. laws, clubs, deeds (for flats and houses omitting ownership for some).
-It is the manner in which social institutions have functioned to oppress and control minority groups within larger societies.
-They are frequently covert acts (secret, disguised, not open or explicit) they are far more subtle and less identifiable in terms of specific individuals committing acts.
(Ngaaga-Ngaaga Kooriduraay Aboriginal Awareness Program, TAFE NSW)
-Institutional racism: (another definition) refers to a pattern of distribution of social goods, including power, which regularly and systematically advantages some ethnic and racial groups and disadvantages others. It operates through key institutions: organized social arrangements through which social goods and services are distributed. (Chambers and Pettman, 1986:7)
-Institutional Racism: (and yet another definition) the systematic distribution of resources, power and opportunity in our society to the benefit of people who are white and the exclusion of people of color. (solid-ground.org)
-Also, please see the attachment above from The Aspen Group. It is a glossary of related terms.
My part question: Can there be freedom without social and political equity and equality?