First of all, congratulations on not being racist anymore. And a round of applause for moving past all your sexist views. It’s pretty impressive that you’re “better than all that” now. Most of all, it’s just nice to live in a country that is free of any sort of discrimination. After all, that’s what we’re about, right? Land of the free and home of the biased, or something like that?
What I find most interesting revolving around discrimination is that, despite claiming that our society is approaching utopia, all we’ve done is merely moved into an age where institutional discrimination is accepted as valid and just.
For those of you that don’t know, institutional discrimination is basically discrimination that is done by a larger organization or government (as opposed to one guy on Ring Road who holds signs about how much his God [whom I presume is most likely not a black woman] hates gays).
While there is considerable controversy regarding whether or not institutional discrimination actually exists, let me quickly put that to rest. Everyone raise your hand. Now, put your hand down if you are legally not allowed to marry. OK. Now that that’s settled, we can move on.
There are plenty of examples of institutionalized discrimination. Think about how the cost of tuition at almost every university is enough for the average White family to send a child to, but not the average minority. The most common instances of institutional discrimination probably have to do with race/ethnicity and sexual orientation. Just to clarify, I will be using the term “race” somewhat interchangeably with “ethnicity” for the sake of this article. I understand that there are a lot of political issues surrounding what colors falls under what races or if they’re ethnicities or whatnot, so let’s just forgo that and agree to not have our heads explode.
One of the most visible instances of institutional discrimination revolves around blacks and income. According to the census, the median family income of a black family is only about 58 percent that of a white family. Hispanics fare slightly better with about 60 percent. However, black families, regardless of their structure (one parent working vs. both parents working, etc) will never make more than about 80 percent that of their equivalent white family. And if you factor in their total net worth, or wealth, the disparity is even greater.
Because wealth includes things people own (like houses and cars), and because upwards of 73 percent of whites own homes, as opposed to less than 47 percent of blacks, the gap between races is widened (with whites’ total net worth being more than $70,000 higher than blacks’).
While it’s difficult to point at a single factor, much of this can be traced to employment rates between races. Whites historically have been considered qualified for almost every job they apply for. Blacks, however, have a much more difficult time getting a job. Ignoring the obvious individual discriminatory acts of employers, the overall institutional acts of discrimination have proven a real setback for blacks and Hispanics. Companies across the United States uniformly agree that a higher level of education is needed than is required to do a given job.
That means that, even though studies show that there is very little correlation (if any) between education and job performance, they require someone to achieve high levels of education to be considered for a job. Obviously, this presents a problem to disadvantaged minorities who, traditionally, have not had as high levels of education as their white counterparts (mostly due to socioeconomic reasons that prevented them from even having the opportunity). While it’s difficult to label something as the sole cause of income inequality, acknowledging the large disparity is a step in the right direction.
Real estate agencies have been perpetrators of “blockbusting” for years. This is the practice of convincing white residents that minorities will “take over” their neighborhood and that the white residents should move out soon. This creates a self-fulfilling type of prophecy in that whites flee the neighborhood, causing housing prices to drop. This enables lower income individuals to move in (often, minorities). This both validates the fears of the whites, and changes the demographics of the neighborhood into a lower socioeconomic status area.
Redlining is also a very common example of institutional discrimination. This is when an agency (like a hospital) avoids areas based on race. This causes unequal access to resources like banks, health care, loans and housing. Interestingly enough, some businesses actually locate toward these areas instead of away from them. Most commonly, these businesses are liquor stores. This gives rise to the term “liquorlining.” Of course, when important places like hospitals and police stations move out of an area, and a bunch of liquor stores move in, you can see how that would be detrimental to the inhabitants of that area.
It’s important to note that while there are much less examples of institutional discrimination today than there were 50 years ago (buh-bye, Jim Crow), much of the inequalities of today’s time are actually caused by the lasting ramifications of previous acts of institutional discrimination. However, there are clearly more examples today, but there just isn’t enough room to talk about all of them. I suggest you research on your own and become an informed citizen. Only then can you change the system.
Jonathan Hilltier is a second-year English major. He can be reached at email@example.com.