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Black People and Institutional Racism

Lisa Gimbel


Do you ever ask yourself, “Is this really racism? Or is it just a personal problem?” Sadly, statistics show us that racism is part of the way that many institutions work. Institutional racism is in schools, policing, prisons, and jobs. It then impacts our basic human rights to housing, water, and food. It affects all people of color, but this article focuses mainly on black people. Institutional racism is the American way of life. Not sure you agree? Keep reading! As you read, remember that 16% of people in the U.S. are black.

black preschoolers1. Being in Preschool While Black

Black children are punished much more than white children. For example, 50% of children suspended in preschool are black, even though only 18% of children in preschool are black.


police officer at a school2. Being in School While Black

Forty percent of children expelled from elementary, middle school, and high school are black. Unfair punishment gets more serious, too. The schools refer students to the police! Sixty-five percent of children referred to the police are Black or Latino, according to the Department of Education.


Kiera Wilmot

Kiera Wilmot

3. Doing a Science Project While Black

Research shows 75% of all people in the U.S. have racial bias. They automatically connect black people with “dangerous or aggressive” behavior. For example, Kiera Wilmot is a 16-year old girl who lives in Florida. She was arrested at school when the top came off of her chemistry experiment and smoke came out. No people or things were hurt, but the police arrested her and took her away in handcuffs. She was suspended from school for 10 days and charged with two felonies.


driving4. Driving While Black

Blacks and whites break traffic laws equally. They are not arrested equally, though. For example, on the New Jersey Turnpike, 15% of drivers are black, but 40% of people stopped for breaking traffic laws are black. It’s worse, though. Seventy-three percent of people arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike are black.


black woman waiting for a phone call5. Getting a Call-Back While Black

Black people who graduated from college have difficulty finding jobs twice as often as white people. Why? One reason is that people with black-sounding names have to send out almost twice as many applications as people with white-sounding names, just to get a response to their resume. After finally getting an interview, black people are called back to talk with the company again only 14% of the time. White people are invited back 34% of the time. Remember how the schools and police work together? When a person has a criminal record, it’s even harder to get a job, especially if a person is black.


median assets of families6. Trying to Survive While Black

Is this just a personal problem? No. The average black or Latino family has less cars, property, and money than the average white family. Without the assets white families have, many black families have to rely on landlords, banks, and credit card companies. These institutions also work against black people and people of color. It is difficult to escape institutional racism. The cycle continues.


Lisa Gimbel teaches at the Cambridge Learning Center in
Cambridge, MA.

Sources: 1. NPR; 2. Dept. of Education; 3. <www.slate.com>; 4-5. <www.usnews.com/news/blogs/at-the-edge/2015/05/06/institutional-racism-is-our-way-of-life> 6. <www.motherjones.com>.

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