Michael Burkart: A sad history of institutional racism

Last modified: Thursday, November 13, 2014
To the editor:

In a letter published Nov. 4. about racism the author claimed that “racists exist in minority cultures as well.” I agree that prejudice exists across all groups, and any individual is able to exercise it.

However, a key factor in the exercise of prejudice is whether it can be coupled with institutional power.

Consider the fact that the biggest difference between whites and blacks is our net worth.

That is primarily driven by how much money we inherit. The biggest factor in wealth creation is the increased value of homes, which gets passed from one generation to the next among whites.

Housing segregation is a nationwide fact for blacks and many Latinos. This reality was intentionally created by decisions made during the creation of suburbs. Banks (via “redlining”), national realty policy, governmental bodies (state, federal and local), “urban renewal” policy (which destroyed more housing than it created) and restrictive housing covenants (upheld by federal court rulings) created this segregation.

This restriction of wealth continues via predatory lending and mortgage discrimination.

The Federal Reserve’s own study in 2010 states: “Even within the same income range, blacks and Latinos experience much higher denial rates than whites and Asians. For example, black borrowers earning from $91,000 to $120,000 faced a denial rate that was two times higher than the denial rate for whites in that income bracket.” School desegregation resulted in the wholesale firing of black teachers and administrators.

Today, 90 percent of public school teachers and administrators are white.

Racism is the term typically used to refer to this coupling of prejudice plus power. I challenge anyone to show how whites are victimized by this kind of institutional power.

Michael Burkart