institutional racism | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Policing

Institutional Racism refers to racial inequalities that result from institutional policies and procedures.

Institutional racism, also known as systemic racism, refers to the ways in which societal institutions and systems create and perpetuate racial inequalities, often unintentionally. This can occur through policies, procedures, practices, and cultural norms that disadvantage certain racial groups and privilege others.

Examples of this can be found in a variety of institutions, including but not limited to education, healthcare, employment, housing, and the criminal justice system. For instance, in education, institutional racism may be evident in the fact that schools with majority Black or Hispanic populations often receive less funding than schools in predominantly white neighborhoods, leading to unequal educational opportunities and outcomes. In healthcare, institutional racism can manifest through racial bias in diagnosis and treatment, resulting in worse health outcomes for people of color. In the criminal justice system, institutional racism may be seen in the disproportionate arrest, prosecution, and sentencing of people of color.

It is important to note that this type of racism is not limited to intentional acts of discrimination or bias but can also result from seemingly neutral policies and practices that have a disproportionate impact on certain racial groups. For example, requiring job applicants to have a certain level of education may seem neutral on the surface, but if that requirement disproportionately excludes people of color due to historical inequalities in access to education, then it can be considered a form of institutional racism.

Efforts to address institutional racism typically involve examining and changing policies and practices that perpetuate racial inequalities, as well as addressing the underlying cultural norms and beliefs that contribute to those inequalities. This can involve initiatives such as diversity and inclusion training, policy reforms, and community-based programs that address the root causes of racial disparities. It also requires an ongoing commitment to identifying and dismantling systemic barriers to racial equality, as well as a willingness to confront uncomfortable truths about the ways in which institutional racism operates in society.

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Last Modified: 04/08/2023

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