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Systemic & Institutional Racism

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What is Systemic Racism?

It's called "systemic" racism because it's ingrained in nearly every way we move through society in the policies and practices at institutions such as banks, schools, companies, government agencies, and law enforcement. Check out these 26 simple racial disparity charts This link opens in a new window to show friends and family who aren't convinced racism is still a problem in America.

Compared to white families, other races have lower levels of income and net worth. They are also less likely to hold assets of any type. In fact, 19% of Black families have zero or negative net worth, while only 9% of White households have no wealth. Learn more about “The Racial Wealth Gap in America. This link opens in a new window

What does racism look like?


Microaggressions are the everyday instances of racism that BIPOC encounter. The person who exhibits the microaggression may not even know that they did or said something racist. It is therefore important to call out microaggressions when you see them.

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Example of Microaggressions in the Classroom

Microaggression: A Black male college student is asked what sport he plays.

Message: The only way a Black male could gain admission to the university is by being an athlete and not by his academic credentials.

Example of Microaggressions in the Workplace

Microaggression: The most qualified person should get the job.

Message: POC are only hired because of their race and not because of their qualification.


Presence without meaningful participation. For example, a superficial invitation for the participation of members of a certain socially oppressed group, who are expected to speak for the whole group without giving this person a real opportunity to speak for her/himself.

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Examples of Tokenism

  • I'm not a racist, my boyfriend is black.
  • My costume isn't racist--my best friend is Iroquois and she thinks it's hilarious.
  • The company isn't racist, we have a Black man on our board.


A form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions, a product of processes of categorization that can result in a prejudiced attitude, uncritical judgment, and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Stereotypes are typically negative, based on little information that does not recognize individualism and personal agency.

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Examples of Stereotypes

  • Arabs are only portrayed as terrorists in tv and movies.
  • Black men are portrayed as criminals in tv and movies.
  • The common portrayals including Mammy, Mandingo, Sapphire, and Uncle Tom.

Color Blind & Erasure

Color Blind is the belief that everyone should be treated “equally” without respect to societal, economic, historical, racial, or other differences. No differences are seen or acknowledged; everyone is the same. Erasure is a result of being color blind - it erases the contributions and lives of African-Americans and other BIPOC.

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Examples of Color Blindness & Erasure

  • I don't see color. I just see people.
  • We're all just people.
  • I don't care if you're black, white, green, or purple-polka-dotted!
  • #AllLivesMatter