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Institutional Racism, or Systemic Racism, is a reflection of the system of discrimination based on race that is primarily found in social and political institutions. The way in which it differs from the traditional concept of racism that we are familiar with is by its subtle nature – it is often implicit and therefore under-detected, and as a result, under-scrutinized. It stems from prejudicial beliefs which subconsciously manifests itself in the minds of influential decision makers. This means that they may not be cognizant of the fact that they are becoming perpetrators of racism – a colossal defeat for victims, even before the battle has begun. A consequence of this inadvertent ignorance is the question of whether Institutional Racism really exists or not. Many individuals, including the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, believe that this is system is self-concocted, and the illusion of its existence is mistaken for reality, catalyzing pre-existing discrimination in social environments. However, there is an abundance of examples available which only aids in increasing the veracity of the issue.
The term “institutional racism” was coined and first used in 1967 by Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton in Black Power: The Politics of Liberation. The novel constitutes as a staple text on the matter, delving into the cogent factors that have contributed to widespread segregation in the United States. However, Institutional Racism has vastly exceeded the confines of the United States and has permeated its way into many international societies such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany.
A pandemic without a definite cure, the issue must be addressed quickly and decisively. The oppressive and nefarious nature of this system is highlighted in the “Black Lives Matter” movement, an organized response consisting of ideological and political intervention against state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism following the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. The organization has managed to procure international recognition and is globally perceived as influential advocate for minority rights. Despite the social advancements they have pioneered for African-Americans, particularly in the field of criminal conviction, their true success is perhaps reflected in the conversations they have raised amongst ordinary citizens as well as people of power regarding the system – a cogent prerequisite for progress and tangible change. Netflix also serves as a contemporary platform to raise awareness on Institutional Racism with shows such as Dear White People, accentuating police brutality and discrimination against adolescents in educational institutions. However, a major point of controversy when it comes to using such shows for establishing a political agenda, is whether they are actually being objective in their presentation, or trying to inculcate anti-white predispositions amongst the viewers. Could they be trying to create a stereotype that male, white law enforcers are inherently racist or presenting the situation as it is seen in reality?
There is sample evidence to suggest that the latter is more likely but the former should not be ruled out from consideration. Irrespective of the genuine intention, human reaction is unpredictable and such shows could therefore exacerbate pre-existing division rather than encourage transparent dialogue and innocuous communication.
13th is an American documentary that is available on Netflix as well, was directed by Ava Dumeray and explores the “intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States.” 13th is a reference to the 13th amendment of the United States’ constitution which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, with exception to those charged with criminal conduct. As a result, many African-Americans who had just been liberated from their shackles found themselves behind bars, having been convicted for displaying “criminal behavior.” However, the grounds for incrimination were often trivial, with ‘’loitering” being considered one of them or with no basis at all – only conjecture. The true premise can perhaps be deduced to ancestral prejudice, which is still of extreme relevance today. Despite being home to 5% of the world’s population, the United States houses 25% of the world’s criminals. Unscrupulous and unsubstantiated conviction contributes heavily to that statistic, which begs the question: how can we overcome ancestral prejudice?
Obviously, the agenda exceeds the dimensions addressed above. Its multifaceted nature makes it an issue that must be meticulously dissected in order to effectively comprehend its social, cultural, and humanitarian constituents. The manner in which it has subjugated political, educational, and judicial honesty is just the beginning. Immigration, housing, civil service, and health are also platforms that have become grounds for discrimination. When debating on feasible solutions to escape this quagmire, bear in mind the ramifications it would have on policies that the solution does not directly address as well.
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