What Is 'Systemic Racism?' How Is It Different from Racist Acts Caused by Bigotry, Prejudice or Bias?

17 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020 Last revised: 2 Jan 2021

See all articles by David B. Oppenheimer

David B. Oppenheimer

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Date Written: July 6, 2020

Abstract

The term “systemic racism” has moved from the halls of academia to our daily newspapers. What does it mean, and how is it different from racist acts caused by bigotry, prejudice, or bias?

Systemic racism is the interrelated system by which Black Americans suffer multiple forms of compounded disadvantage because they are Black. Racist acts contribute to the system, but they are only the most visible part of the system in the same way that only the tip of an iceberg is visible.

The system that disadvantages Black Americans includes interrelated and compounding disadvantages and discrimination in housing, education, employment, health care, wealth building, public services, food, retail prices, banking, investment, the environment, homelessness, stereotype profiling, empathy/belonging, policing, the criminal justice system, the right to free speech, and the right to vote. To see the full system at work we must walk in the shoes of Black Americans through this system of compounded disadvantage.

This Article is organized according to the major components of systemic racism. Although the Article could start by examining any component, there are two reasons to begin with housing. First, the separation of Black Americans into segregated neighborhoods creates or contributes to nearly all the other components. Second, housing has historically been and currently is the most significant contributor to systemic racism. After discussing housing, the article will discuss other major components, including banking, employment, transportation, education, policing, healthcare, and voting.

Note: This is a draft. I expect to circulate a completed version by September of 2020.

Keywords: systemic racism, racism, discrimination, bias, Black Americans, African-Americans

Suggested Citation

Oppenheimer, David B., What Is 'Systemic Racism?' How Is It Different from Racist Acts Caused by Bigotry, Prejudice or Bias? (July 6, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3644684 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3644684

David B. Oppenheimer (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
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5106433225 (Phone)

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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