The mission of the Racial Justice Ministry is to “raise awareness and understanding of and engagement with racial identity and racism, including our individual and collective opportunities to achieve racial justice.” This document is intended to raise awareness and understanding of systemic racism by providing a collection of print and video resources.The resources are divided into three groups:  (1) what is systemic racism, (2) the history of systemic racism, and (3) overcoming systemic racism. As you consider the issue of systemic racism, consider these questions:

  1. What does the term “systemic racism” refer to?
  2. How is systemic racism different than individual racism?
  3. What is the history of systemic racism in the US?
  4. How has systemic racism evolved over time?
  5. As an individual, what can I do to reduce systemic racism?

A definition

A dictionary definition of racism is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race (note 1). Racism takes two related forms: (1) Individual racism refers to explicit individual acts by Whites against individual Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. (2) Systemic (institutional or structural) racism refers to actions, both explicit and implicit, acts by the white community against the communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

As a more formal definition, systemic (institutional or structural) racism refers to the oppressive racist realities that have been institutionalized and manifest in all of society’s parts including the economy, politics, education, religion, family, etc. It includes (1) exploitative and discriminatory white practices targeting people of color, (2) institutionalized economic and other resource inequalities along racial lines, and (3) dominant racial frame generated to rationalize white privilege and dominance. (note 2)

Note 1: Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.

Note 2: Joe R. Feagin (2010). The white racial frame: Centuries of racial framing and counter-framing, p. viii.)

Important characteristics of systemic racism

  • It can be either intentional or unintentional. Because of this, racist acts are best defined by their impact rather than their intent.
  • It is one way. One group with political, economic, and social power uses that power to its own advantage and to disadvantage another group that has limited or no political, economic, and social power.
  • It is systematic and pervasive throughout a society’s institutions. And it is actively and regularly maintained by individual and collective actions.
  • It mutates over time. Its form changes but its goal remains unchanged: maintaining the power and advantage of one group over another.

What is systemic racism?

The history of systemic racism

Print Resources

Audio and Video Resources

Overcoming systemic racism