As protestors take to the streets across the world to highlight police brutality and seek racial justice in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer, the issue of “systemic racism” or “institutional racism” long endured by the Black community is now on everyone’s lips.
But what is systemic racism?
While we can all acknowledge that interpersonal discrimination and racism occurs, systemic racism considers the influence of historic and current policies and practices that are deeply rooted within institutions and systems.
According to Mary Frances O’Dowd, a Senior Lecturer of Indigenous Studies at CQUniversity Australia, in her article for The Conversation, systemic racism “refers to how ideas of white superiority are captured in everyday thinking at a systems level: taking in the big picture of how society operates, rather than looking at one-on-one interactions.
“These systems can include laws and regulations, but also unquestioned social systems. Systemic racism can stem from education, hiring practices or access.”
Sustainability can not be fully achieved if racism and racial inequality and discrimination is allowed to fester within society, as these issues amongst others, lie at the core of social and economic disparity.
Here are some facts and statistics to help you understand how systemic racism manifests itself across industry and society and give you a clearer picture of the magnitude of the problem:
1. The median wealth of white households in the United States was $171,000. That’s 10 times the wealth of black households ($17,100) and eight times that of Hispanic households ($20,600). (Pew Research Center, 2016)
2. Food insecurity rates for both non-Hispanic black and Hispanic households were at least twice that of non-Hispanic white households in the US. (USDA, 2016)
3. In 2017, 21.8% of African American households and 18% of Latinx households reported food insecurity, while the national food insecurity rate was just 11.8%. (Hunger & Health: Feeding America, 2017)
4. American job candidates were more likely to get an interview when they “whitened” their name. 25% of black candidates received callbacks from their whitened resumes, while only 10% got calls when they left ethnic details on their application. (Harvard study 2016)
5. 21% of Asian Americans received callbacks if they used whitened resumes, compared with 11.5% who sent CVs inferring race. (Harvard study 2016)
6. In Australia, the callback rate for CVs with Anglo-Saxon-sounding names was 35% compared with the following minority groups: Indigenous applicants 26%; Middle Eastern 22% and Chinese 21%. (HILDA Project, 2011)
7. American unemployment skyrocketed for black and white workers in the COVID-19 labor market but the unemployment rate is higher for black workers; 16.7% compared to the white unemployment rate of 14.2%. (Economic Policy Institute, 2020)
8. Black workers in the US are more likely to hold front-line ‘essential’ jobs —forcing them to risk their own and their families’ health to earn a wage. They make up one in six of all front-line-industry workers and disproportionately represented in the following industries: grocery, convenience stores, public transit, postal service, child care and social services. (Economic Policy Institute, 2020)
9. Australian Indigenous doctors reported bullying as a source of major stress at 5.5 times and racism at nearly 10 times the rate of their non-Indigenous counterparts. (Beyond Blue, 2017)
10. Water contamination affects low-income areas and communities of color across the United States disproportionately, leading to health-related issues. The groups most impacted my water pollution: children of color residing in rural areas, indigenous communities, and migrant farmworker communities. (American Progress, 2016).
11. Communities of color in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic breathe in 66% more air pollution from vehicles on average than white residents. (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2019)
12. The average concentrations of air pollution exposure for minority communities compared with white residents is as follows: Latino residents 75% higher; Asian American residents 73% higher, and African American residents are 61% higher. (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2019)
13. Black people are exposed to about 1.5 times more polluters and pollution particulate matter than white people, and Hispanics had about 1.2 times the exposure compared with non-Hispanic whites. (Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012)
14. In 2017, only 16.6% of American journalists at daily newspapers were people of color even though 37% of its population is non-white. (ASNE Diversity Survey, 2017)
15. There is a lack of cultural and linguistic diversity (CALD) in Australian media, with 82.7% of the national entertainment and media workforce speaking only English at home. (PWC Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook, 2018)
16. In Australia, just 4.1% of parliamentarians have a non-European background, and only 1.5% have an Indigenous background, even though non-Europeans and the Indigenous make up roughly 24% of the country’s population. (Australian Human Rights Commission Leading for Change report, 2018)
17. Just 22% of the United States Congress are from racial or ethnic minorities even though non-whites make up 39% of the nation’s population. (Pew Research Center, 2019)
18. Indigenous people make up just two percent of the Australian population, but 28% of the adult prison population. (ABS, 2019)
19. African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is five times that of whites. (Sentencing Project, 2016)
20. In Australia, less than 10% of artistic directors come from culturally diverse backgrounds even though this group makes up 24% of the country’s population. (The Conversation, 2019)
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Cover image by Socialist Appeal.