Racial Oppression in America:Creating a Platform for Dialogue through an Awareness of Structural Racialization
The recent string of lethal confrontations between law enforcement and unarmed black men have cast America’s racial landscape into the spotlight once again. Public reaction to the police shootings are almost always split down racial lines. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 71% of blacks believe that police treat whites better than blacks. By contrast, only 36% of whites agreed. (Drake)
Any discussion about dismantling the practices that perpetuate racial injustice must acknowledge and address the racial differentiation and disparities between whites and people of color that exist in America’s social, educational, legal and political systems. The primary factor affecting race relations in the 21st century is structural racialization. This concept is described as a “set of practices, cultural norms, and institutional arrangements that are both reflective of and simultaneously used to create and maintain racialized outcomes in society.” (Powell)
Certain historical policies have perpetuated structural racialization:
National Labor Relations Act -- NLRA is one example of a reform that was originally considered race neutral. However, by excluding farm and domestic workers (who were predominantly African American in the 1930s) to appease Dixiecrats, the NLRA perpetuated race-based inequities.
Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing -- In the 1980s this was a key tool in the War on Crime, which targeted communities of color in the wake of the civil rights movement.
Zero Tolerance Polices in Schools -- Rather than addressing systemic problems affecting public schools, zero tolerance became a mechanism for criminalizing and stigmatizing youth of color.
Unfettered discourse about structural racialization and its impact on communities of color can provide everyone with a better understanding of the disparities that haunt our nation, and the systems that perpetuate them.
Regardless of whether we agree with the alleged offender or the offended, our response should never be one of indifference. It is unrealistic to think that we not always agree with one another, or have the same priorities, desires or opinions; if we did, there would be no reason to consider the interests of others. Let us not walk in our own understanding by forcing others to agree with us, or refusing to listen to those who disagree with us. Rather, let us follow Paul’s directive, and walk in the spirit: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
- Tiffany King, Union of Black Episcopalians, Atlanta Chapter
UBE joins with our brothers and sisters at General Convention and the wider church
in calling for the continued discourse on the topic of racial injustice as we mourn the martyrs of our struggle.