Implicit Bias and Institutional Racism

A More Progressive Approach: Recognizing the Role of Implicit Bias in Institutional Racism

By DeAngelo Bester, Executive Director of the Workers Center For Racial Justice and Center for Racial and Gender Equity

In the past year, the tragic deaths of unarmed Black males such as Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford and Tamir Rice have helped to spark a robust dialogue around race in America. Many people have argued that none of these deaths were racially motivated. Others have argued that race had everything to do with them. I would argue that both sides are right.

Many people in this country only see racism as individual acts of bias against people of color: Someone painting a swastika on the side of someone’s house or burning a cross on someone’s front yard, or a group of inebriated college kids using the N-word during a song about their fraternity. But there is an entirely different group of people, self-identified as liberal, progressive or radical, that sees racism in institutions and structures. For us, the images we associate with racism are a school that is majority white, but the majority of the students who get suspended are of color, or an upscale restaurant that only has white staff working as hosts and servers and chefs, while all the staff of color work the lower paying jobs. It’s an entire country that is two-thirds white but has a prison population that is two-thirds people of color. For us, this is what racism in the 21st century looks like.

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