Race and Racism

What is structural and institutional racism

Structural racism is a term that describes the way government and other public and private institutions systematically afford White people an array of social, political and economic advantages, simply because they are White, while marginalizing and putting at a disadvantage African Americans and many other people of color.

Structural racism is a legacy of American slavery and White settlers' determination to systematically exclude Africans from every aspect of the newly formed democratic society. Structural racism is still rampant today and remains embedded in every institution, school, and system in society, especially in areas with high levels of segregation, such as Long Island.


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Myths and Facts 

Myth 1: It’s not race; it’s class.

Race and class are intertwined.  Having a racial hierarchy that allows some groups access to more resources than others creates racial disparities in wealth accumulation.

Myth 2: Race is too divisive to talk about.

To not talk about race actually worsens the problem.  It masks racial disparities and hinders social justice.

Myth 3: Everyone should be responsible for themselves.

Public policy helped create and maintain racial disparities both presently and in the past.  Humans are interconnected.  What happens to one affects all.

Myth 4: People want to live alone/Poor people like to live together.

Segregated housing limits opportunity and full participation in a democratic society.  The benefits of integration clearly outweigh segregation.

Myth 5: It’s the 21st century; the playing field is now level.

The playing field is far from level.  Structural racism, public policy and generations of accumulated advantage for some created and maintain an unbalanced playing field.

Myth 6: Schools are integrated. Remember Brown v. Board of Education?

School segregation has been steadily increasing since the 1990s.  Resegregation of public schools is tied directly to housing segregation, and poses a direct challenge to the original intent of Brown.

Myth 7: Schools are bad because families aren’t doing their part to make their children do better. 

Education and housing policy are intertwined.  Place determines access to education. Any successful, long-term education policy must take into account housing policy.

Myth 8: Integration would be harmful to whites.

Integrated school systems generally result in improvement in academic achievement for all.  The cost of integration to white students is non-existent. 


“Because [institutional racism] is structural, there does need not to be an identifiable perpetrator; examples include differential access to quality education, sound housing, gainful employment, appropriate medical facilities, a clean environment, material resources, wealth, representation in government, and control of the media. Institutionalized racism may explain the persistent association between race and socioeconomic status in this country.” –Access to Health and Health Care: How Race and Ethnicity Matter, Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 2010