We Inherited a Racist System


Education professor Robin DiAngelo wrote an article for the Seattle Times last year called “What Does It Mean To Be White?” In the article she gives a helpful description of systemic racism:

Social scientists define racism as a multidimensional, highly adaptive system—a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources among racial groups. The group that controls the institutions controls the distribution and embeds its racial bias into the fabric of society.

In the U.S., while individual whites might be against racism, they still benefit from their group’s control. Yes, an individual person of color can sit at the tables of power, but the overwhelming majority of decision-makers will be white. Yes, white people can have problems and face barriers, but systematic racism won’t be one of them.

This distinction—between individual prejudice and a system of unequal institutionalized racial power—is fundamental. One cannot understand how racism functions in the U.S. today if one ignores group power relations…

…Let me be clear. I don’t see myself or other whites as bad. Racism is a system that we did not create, but it’s one that we did inherit. We must take responsibility to see and challenge it both within and around us.

DiAngelo goes on to describe four different forces that make it difficult for white people to see and understand racism as a system. You can read those here.

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