Institutionalized Racism

2440 Words10 Pages
I believe that I am white. Growing up in wealthy suburban town in Massachusetts, surrounded by people that look like me, I never was required to think about my safety, dignity, future, or body through the lens of my race. I learned about slavery, racism, and the Civil Rights era in a classroom with 20 other kids and a teacher who also believed they were white. We learned about these issues as apathetic bystanders. Memorize them; get a good grade on the test. Resume normal life afterward. As Coates says, “the forgetting is habit” (9). Previous to reading this book, trying to understand the black experience was like trying to understand my 8th grade French teacher. She spoke to us in foreign words that I subconsciously translated into English…show more content…
Unlike most, I am a little hesitant to jump on the institutionalized racism bandwagon. Not because I don’t believe that our political and social institutions are racist; there is no doubt in my mind they are. I could browse Google for one minute and present thousands of statistics and facts about our schools, courts, banks, and criminal justice system that are impossible to argue against. The idea of institutionalized racism troubles me because I believe it is presented as an omnipresent force of nature, unable to be changed or dealt with, and we have begun to use this theory as a scapegoat. We have constructed an evil being named “society” to play the role of the villain so we, as individuals, don’t have to. This allows so many Americans to confidently pronounce, “I am not a racist!” and believe they are telling the truth, yet still live in a country where racism has reached epidemic proportions. Institutionalized racism is one of the biggest issues facing America, not only because of the problems it causes for African Americans, but because it permits white people to ignore their own personal part they play in the problem, and, in turn, they never manage or accept their personal racism. Rather than thinking of individual racism and institutional racism as two separate, distinct issues, I…show more content…
In mainstream culture, talking about racial struggle has become synonymous with talking about the struggle of black men, and Between the World and Me only serves to further this. For example, the first sentence of the New York Times’ book review is “Between the World and Me is a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today” (Kakutani). I understand that Coates’ book was about his own experiences as a black man to his son, but I was disappointed because I felt that he had a wonderful opportunity to shed light on the plight of black women but instead ignored it. He mentions women’s experiences once in the book - the passage stood out to me because I was patiently waiting for when he would expand on the particular struggles of black women - telling his son that “the women around you must be responsible for their bodies in a way that you never will know” (71). So much of what Coates was saying in the book could be directly applied to women, yet he did not attempt to make any sort of connection. In fact, I believe that I was able to empathize so greatly with Coates’ story because I could relate to some of the injustices he has faced. The idea of constantly worrying about the protection of my body, being judged on what I am wearing, the
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