In a recent meeting held by SURJ-Boston (Stand Up for Racial Justice) and the Boston Anti-Racism Knapsack group, we talked about all the laws and practices that have led to structural racism throughout our history. This is the list we came up with collectively; it is not exhaustive. From a systems thinking point of view it is quite impressive.
The word STRUCTURE in structural racism is used appropriately. When systems thinkers say structure, we are referring to laws, customs, and practices. We are also talking about the movement and stockpiles of money, of people, of material, information, and perceptions, and even emotion. These stockpiles endure, and what is happening now is inextricably linked to what has happened in the past. For example, if a big pile of money has accumulated over the years, it gives the owners, and their children, an advantage. One of the biggest ideas from systems thinking is this.
Structure drives behavior. Structure drives performance, and success, or lack thereof.
Below is a partial list of legal and business practices that have prevented people of color from having the same access to wealth and happiness that white people have received. These laws and practices are part of what is meant by “Structural racism”, they are structures that have not worked for all people, only some. And “white privilege” refers to the exclusive benefits that white people have gotten (and continue to get) from these and many other structures.
|Law or Practice||Info||Began||End|
|Slavery [People as Property]||learn||1789||1861|
|Black Code Laws||learn||1865||1866|
|Social Security [excluded domestic and agricultural workers]||learn||1935||1950|
|GI Bill, Title III||learn||1944||1952|
|Bank Lending Policies [exclude Blacks]||learn||1944||1968|
|FHA Mortgage Insurance [Restrictive Deeds]||learn||1934||1968|
|White Flight [enabled by the Interstate Highway System]||learn||1950||1970|
|Urban Renewal [Highways through communities of color]||learn||1949||1974|
|Restrictive Laws [loss of voting rights]||learn||1950||2016|
|Voting Rights Act||learn||1965||1965|
|Prison Contract Labor [Public and privately managed prisons]||learn||1970||2016|
|War on Drugs||learn||1971||1994|
|Prisons for Profit||learn||1984||2016|
|Crime Omnibus Bill[Three Strikes]||learn||1994||2016|
|Zero Tolerance [in education]||learn||1994||2016|
|Subprime Lending [Disproportionately affects people of color]||learn||1994||2009|
|Stop & Frisk||learn||2011||2014|
|Affordable Care Act [Medicaid only state by state]||learn||2014||2016|