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Commentary: Does institutional or systemic racism still exist in our society?

By Cori Wilbur and Narima Lopes

When Barack Obama became the first African American president, many believed that political division and racism in the United States would end. However, discrimination still exists in criminal justice, employment, housing, healthcare, political power and education, among other systems.

According to Political Science Professor Zoltan Hajnal (UCSD), our current democracy holds systemic imbalances and to quote Reverend Madison T. Shockley (Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Carlsbad) “Systemic racism is still enwrapped in our major institutions.”

When it comes to voting on policy, there is a huge discrepancy between the needs of white versus black people. “As America has become more racially diverse, it has also become more racially divided. Institutionally our system is set up to disadvantage racial and ethnic minorities,” continued Hajnal.

Whether or not that was the intent, the effects of this system disadvantage racial and ethnic minorities, particularly black people, and in general, black people tend to lose out on policy more than any other minority.

The police department has the opportunity and responsibility to protect and serve, but more often than not, they do their job in a way that disfavors and disadvantages people of color, particularly African Americans. These outcomes stem from a system built around a bias, which allows individuals to use excessive force on black people because a white person is at risk.

As citizens of a community, we need to push back and express our voices that a militarized police force is not the type of protection we want or need.

Another system in which racism still breeds is in our schools. School districts with union contracts allow experienced teachers to choose their school assignments, so most times, teachers with tenure will opt out of teaching in schools in urban areas; the areas with the highest need for experienced educators, leading to mostly black students in these urban areas not getting the opportunity and coaching to become successful pillars of the community.

Also prevalent in places like Encinitas and Carlsbad, is the consequences of housing segregation. Members of these communities should question whether or not they are comfortable living in areas that lack real diversity. The legacy of our segregation policies is still with us.

Black people have made progress in closing the income gap. However, the wealth gap is what really makes a difference, it’s wide and it’s wider than it’s ever been. A lot of wealth is in our homes and the discrimination continues.

Ultimately, fixing these fundamentally biased systems is up to us. Firstly, we must realize that voting for candidates who promise to help racial and ethnic minorities is better for everyone in the long run. Secondly, we must question what factors lead to a lack in diversity.

We need to organize and look at why our cities look the way that they do. We cannot be blind and or uncritical when we see something that has a negative impact on our community. Finally, to result in a meaningful change, we need to work to close the turnout voting gap between white and black people.

Cori Wilbur and Narima Lopes are Carlsbad residents and members of the Encinitas & North Coast Democratic Club.


David L Reagan August 6, 2020 at 7:13 pm

The evidence does not support the claim America is a systematically racist society.
Minorities, including blacks are successful in many fields, including medicine [Ben Carson], business [Herman Cain, C.J. Walker, Kenneth Frazier], diplomacy [Condaleeza Rice, Colin Powell], economics [Thomas Sowell], law [Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas] and of course, politics. There have been many minority governors and lawmakers and we have twice elected a black president.

Regarding policing, most America law enforcement officers are professionals who perform dangerous work to keep us all safe. Because of the bad behavior of a few, they are unfairly accused of bias. The data do not support this charge: rather, it shows police activity commensurate with crimes as reported by the victims themselves. The killing of George Floyd was the exception, not the rule. The Cops are the good guys.

America has changed dramatically in the past 60 years. Since quoting academics appears in fashion, I reference Orlando Patterson, a Harvard Sociologist [and a black man], who points out: America is the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of protecting the legal rights of minorities; and offers them more opportunities than any other society in the world.

Does racism still exist? Yes. Is it “systematic.” Absolutely not!

Theo August 4, 2020 at 1:41 pm

Kathy Barnette: Police misconduct isn’t biggest problem facing black Americans – here’s what is. I am a black woman, married to a black man, and raising black children. I have a personal stake in how all of this mayhem we’ve experienced over the past several weeks pans out.

Contrary to what many claim, the main problem facing black Americans is not police misconduct. Our main problem is that we don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to revitalizing our communities.

We watch as primarily white liberals come into predominately black communities and tell us what our problems are and how to fix them. And now they have decided that our chief problem is policing that discriminates against us.

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