Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty Years of Service to the Student

Institutional Racism in America

Is racism still present in America today? Yes. A Pew poll from 2011 of anti-black biases over the last 60 years found that white people are more likely to believe nowadays that there is more anti-white biases in society over anti-black biases.

Racism is still very present in America even 50 years after the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. What remains is called institutional racism.

Patrisse Cullors, founder of Dignity and Power Now and cofounder of Black Lives Matter, defines institutional racism as “the purposeful practice of discriminating particular groups of people based off of race in every format of society.”

According to Cullors, institutional racism has deep roots in American society.

“It comes from a long-lasting history of power and privilege” she said, “and in this context, white people.”

Cullors commented that institutional racism prevents people from being fully human and living a life of dignity. She said the reason behind the blindness of people to institutional racism is based on guilt and not having to confront themselves on the matter.

Institutional racism has a constant negative effect on all minorities in America. From economics to politics, this form of racism plagues almost every aspect of an average American’s life.

Many white people viewed the election of an African-American president as an end to racism. Meanwhile, numerous African-Americans saw it as another step towards a more extensive goal of eliminating all forms of racism. The issue at hand however, continues to pervade institutions across the country.

The tragic shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 has sparked more than a month of protests, and serves as a vivid reminder to the injustices faced by minorities on an almost daily basis. Kalamazoo College recently had a group of students attend some of the Oct. protests, with the aim being to eliminate police brutality towards African- Americans, and to stand in solidarity with those who continue to fight systematic injustices towards people of color.

As for K, institutional racism affects many students and staff on all levels. Valerie Alagon, K’15, said that the Ferguson shooting should not be taken lightly and that “It reveals a lot of improvements we can make for ourselves as well as for the police force.” Alagon also mentioned that prisons systems, education, and law enforcement are all negatively affected by institutional racism.

Alagon has seen firsthand the devastating effects of institutional racism. “Schools weren’t safe places” she said, mentioning that there were “1,000 students and 10 security guards” at a Philadelphia public school she visited. As an Asian-American student, she has felt racial standards set for Asian students in America as well.

“I feel like it’s everywhere”, Kalkidan Amare, K’18 said when asked about institutional racism. She explained that it can even be present in the classes she takes. As for Kalamazoo, she said she was not impressed by the lack of conversation about race in her classes. “Teachers need to open up more about race because POC can’t do it alone,” Amare said, explaining some different ways of helping eliminate or at least diminish institutional racism at K.

Amare had encounters with institutional racism in her majority-white boarding high school. She also mentioned that if it were a primarily black boarding community, she would not have had nearly the same opportunities as what she had there, referring to various sports such as skiing and crew, among other afterschool activities.

America is not as close to full equality between all races as it thinks. It has made strides in the past decades and has come a long way, but it has much more to go before it’s there. As for K, the diverse populace of students, cultures and ideas has led to better equality. We can do more as a community however, to educate ourselves, and work to help the rest of America rid itself of the national problem of institutional racism.

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Institutional Racism in America