The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed Thursday about the Charleston shooting claiming that "the system and philosophy of institutionalized racism identified by Dr. King no longer exists." Before making that ridiculous claim, they also mention President Obama's Martin Luther King, Jr. quote from his speech yesterday:
“They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.”
Well, I have some news for them. Institutional racism is alive and well in America. The same institutional racism that gives this illusion that black and brown American citizens are inferior. People like to say these factors are excuses as to why minorities, mainly black minorities, can't seem to shake the shackles of America's unforgiving past. Here's a few bullet points on how government policies purposely create a lower class occupied by poor, uneducated black and brown people.
Law Enforcement and Incarceration:
When it comes to developed nations, the United States is the worldwide leader in incarceration rates. We lock up about 707 per 100,000 people. Blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are 37.5 percent of the prison population, most of whom are in jail for nonviolent offenses thanks to the War on Drugs. About 65 percent of non-violent life without parole prisoners are black, according to the ACLU.
The 13th Amendment states:
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
Coincidence? I think not.
Also blacks are three times as likely to be killed at the hands of police than whites. And as far as black on black crime outrage goes, remember this: when citizens, no matter the color, commit murders they go to jail. When police "unlawfully" kill a citizen, we have to burn a city down just so we might get an indictment.
Black students are more likely to be suspended than white students. According to NPR, and this is something I've seen with my own eyes, "students who are expelled or suspended are more likely to end up with criminal records." When I was in summer school at Paterson, N.J.'s Eastside High (the school Lean On Me was based on), kids routinely walked out of the building like visitors. No one said anything. Teachers, administrators, security guards, no one. They walk right out of school and to the corner to make money. The administration's lack of effort was creating a criminal class in their own backyard. You want to talk about personal responsibility when it comes to teenagers who can barely keep up their personal hygiene, let alone be capable of making mature decisions? Many of whom live in single parent households? Many who turn to the streets for confidence in a world that doesn't believe in them? Cool.
And it starts early. In terms of preschoolers, 18 percent are black yet they make up almost half of suspended students. Black girls are suspended at a higher rate than white boys, 12 percent to six percent. Sixteen percent of all enrolled students are black and more than 25 percent of those kids are referred to police. These numbers aren't alarming? They should be. You can check this NPR article for more crazy stats and this American Psychological Association report which finds that black boys are considered older and less innocent than their white peers.
Racism in school is as institutional as it gets.
None of the big bank executives or Wall Street CEOs who were responsible for subprime lending practices that preyed on poor minorities and the stock market crash that led to the financial collapse didn't see a day in jail. Former banker James Theckston told the New York Times in 2011:
“The bigwigs of the corporations knew this, but they figured we’re going to make billions out of it, so who cares? The government is going to bail us out. And the problem loans will be out of here, maybe even overseas.”
At first it was segregation and White Flight that kept minorities trapped in America's ghettoes, then it was the subprime lending practices of the '90s and aughts that held black and brown people back. Back in the '50s and '60s, property value would drop if blacks moved into the neighborhood forcing educated people of color to live in poorer neighborhoods, ultimately exposing their offspring to crime. Essentially black and brown people got a late start in their chase of the American Dream. Also, public housing was created for segregation. You don't see any projects in predominately white neighborhoods. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Case for Reparations for more face-melting facts.
All of these factors set unnecessary barriers for minorities, especially blacks, to overcome. They also create the evil that happened in Charleston, S.C. Yeah, the same institutional racism that Dr. King identified with is still kicking us in the nuts today. Some people call them excuses, I call them reasons. Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and end institutional racism.
Angel Diaz is a staff writer for Complex Media. Follow him @ADiaz456.