People often define racism as disliking or mistreating someone due to their race. Roberts, who directs the Social Concepts Lab in the School of Humanities and Sciences, says that definition is false. Instead, “Racism is a system of advantage based on race. It is a hierarchy. It is a pandemic. Racism is so deeply embedded within U.S. minds and U.S. society that it is virtually impossible to escape.”
Despite the advances of the civil rights movement nearly fifty years ago, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and recognition of police brutality today, racism remains a very real issue. This remains evident in the criminal justice system where despite only making up 13.4 percent of the population, black people experience 22 percent of fatal police shootings, 47 percent of wrongful conviction exonerations, and 35 percent of individuals executed by the death penalty. Black juveniles are also subject to higher rates of incarceration. It does not end there, as racial injustice also extends to the education system. There, black youth are more likely to be suspended or expelled, less likely to be placed in gifted programs, and subject to lower expectations from their teachers. However, they are three times more likely to be referred for gifted programs if their teacher was black, pointing to biases some white educators may harbor. Historically, black colleges have also experienced a lack of funding.
Despite how deeply ingrained racism is in American society, it does not mean that the fight against it is a hopeless battle. The public must educate themselves about their biases to recognize and alter their behaviors. They also need to learn the effects and spread of racism to make improvements to institutions where it is concentrated (e.g., the education system, the criminal justice system, the healthcare system, etc.). Activists have already been successful in making some much-needed changes. One example of this is criminal legal reforms that reduce mass incarceration and expand voting rights. Joining voices with activists only adds to their influence by spreading awareness and helping change come about quicker.
What can I do about this?
1. Take the steps to educate yourself. Try diving inwards and see if you yourself might be harboring biases that you were unaware of. It’s better to acknowledge those behaviors and take the next necessary steps to correct them, rather than ignore them.
2. Speak up about racial indifferences you see. Whether it’s joining activists and spreading awareness, or standing up for someone who you see is facing a racial injustice. Your voice may encourage others to speak up as well.