"Redlining basically meant it was fundamentally impossible for Black and brown people to get loans. It was an active way of enforcing segregation. Systemic racism is naming the process of white supremacy." (Glenn Harris, ColorLines)


What is systemic racism?

Civil rights leaders and advocates are demanding an end to systemic racism, a reference to the systems in place that create and maintain racial inequality in nearly every facet of life for people of color.

Over the summer, thousands took to the streets in the wake of George Floyd's death to demand an end to police brutality and racism. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected African Americans in communities across the country, continues to spread. 

"This is not about one incident," said NAACP President Derrick Johnson. "This is about the systemic and pervasive nature of racism in this nation that must be addressed."

Here's what you need to know about systemic racism.

Johnson defined systemic racism, also called structural racism or institutional racism, as "systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantage African Americans."

How does systemic racism affect people of color?

Structural racism prevents or makes it more challenging for people of color to participate in society and in the economy. While structural racism manifests itself in what appears to be separate institutions, Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines, emphasized that factors like housing insecurity, the racial wealth gap, education and policing are intimately connected. 

How can systemic racism be addressed?

Johnson outlined three steps people can take to address systemic racism. We must "acknowledge that racism actually exists," get involved with organizations that are fighting it, and finally elect leaders and policy makers who won't reinforce or support structurally racist policies. 

"Racism is not a partisan issue, and we need to stop making it a partisan issue," Johnson said. "It's a question of morality."


Adapted from N’dea Yancey-Bragg’s article in USA Today, as updated January 29, 2021, “What is systemic racism? Here's what it means and how you can help dismantle it.https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/06/15/systemic-racism-what-does-

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