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Racial Justice Resources for Activists, Advocates & Allies

This guide serves as a resource for the UC community to learn about activism and allyship as it pertains to racial justice and anti-racism.

How to use this guide: Structural & Systemic Racism

Structural & systemic racism: some definitions

Institutionalized Oppression

Institutions are fairly stable social arrangements and practices through which collective actions are taken. Examples of institutions in the U.S. include the legal, educational, health care, social service, government, media and criminal justice systems. Institutional Oppression is the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.

Institutional Oppression occurs when established laws, customs, and practices systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups. If oppressive consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs, or practices, the institution is oppressive whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have oppressive intentions. Institutional Oppression creates a system of invisible barriers limiting people based on their membership in unfavored social identity groups. The barriers are only invisible to those “seemingly” unaffected by it. The practice of institutionalized oppression is based on the belief in inherent superiority or inferiority. Institutionalized oppression is a matter of result regardless of intent.

Structural Racism is a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.

Systemic Racism: In many ways “systemic racism” and “structural racism” are synonymous. If there is a difference between the terms, it can be said to exist in the fact that a structural racism analysis pays more attention to the historical, cultural and social psychological aspects of our currently racialized society.

(Source: Aspen Institute)

Systemic Racism (also called structural or institutional racism) - racism that exists across a society within, and  between institutions/organizations across society

  • Refers to the complex interactions of large scale societal systems, practices, ideologies, and programs that produce and and perpetuate inequities for racial minorities. The key aspect of structural or systematic racism is that these macro-level mechanisms operate independent of the intentions and actions of individuals, so that even if individual racism is not present, the adverse conditions and inequalities for racial minorities will continue to exist (Gee & Ford, 2011).
  • Examples: housing discrimination, government surveillance, social segregation, racial profiling, predatory banking, access to healthcare, hiring/promotion practices, mandatory minimum sentences (Fitchburg State Libguide)

Systemic Racism impacts the lives of BIPOC citizens in some, but not limited to, areas:

  • Criminal Justice/ law enforcement/ policing / mandatory minimum sentences
  • Discrimination
  • Employment practices / hiring / promotions / salaries
  • Government surveillance
  • Healthcare /medicine
  • Housing
  • Land ownership
  • Technology, algorithmic racism

Structural & Systemic Racism: videos

Structural & Systemic Racism: podcasts

Structural & Systemic Racism: web resources

Structural & Systemic Racism: books

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