Systemic Racism

A term coined by sociologist Joe Faegin, systemic racism is a sociological theory that helps to explain the role that race and racism has had on the development of U.S. society and how racism had permeated into every institution of U.S. society.  As a theory, it takes a look at how individual, structural, and institutional forms of racism intersect, overlap, and create a deep-rooted form of prejudice and discrimination that advantages a cultural group at the expense of others in all institutions of a society - economics, political representation, the criminal justice system, employment, and many others.

Southern Poverty Law Center

"The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the Center works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality." - SPLC

Race Forward, Colorlines, Facing Race

"Race Forward's mission is to build awareness, solutions and leadership for racial justice by generating transformative ideas, information and experiences. We define racial justice as the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all and we work to advance racial justice through media, research, and leadership development. Race Forward publishes the daily news site Colorlines and presents Facing Race, the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice."


The PBS series, RACE: The Power of an Illusion, provides great interactive timelines and other content that puts a historical perspective on slavery, inequality, discrimination, and racism.

Go to, and check out their great website!

Press Articles

"DOJ Issues Damning Report On Ferguson Police, Courts"

"A damning report released by the Justice Department on Wednesday heavily criticized the operations of the police department and municipal court in Ferguson, Missouri. DOJ’s civil rights investigation into the Ferguson criminal justice system found that authorities have routinely violated the rights of black citizens and have used tickets to generate revenue for the city"

"The Problem Is Way Bigger Than Ferguson, Justice Department Report Reveals"

"It was billed as an investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. But a hard-hitting report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice also reads as an indictment of cities and towns across the St. Louis region."

Academic Articles

"The Race Discrimination System," a study by Barbara Reskin

Racism in America has been a long standing issue in our history. While slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and the like are arguably over, it is evident that American institutions have been structured by the influences of centuries old racism and racial supremacy. Recent events in the towns of Ferguson, Staten Island, and all across America continue to bring attention to the discrimination and inequality people of color face in the criminal justice system, but the influence of racism on our institutions does not stop there. People of color face discrimination in all institutions, suffering injustices which follow a systemic pattern of inequality that trails them through the education system, health systems, employment, real estate, and the criminal justice system. The following articles and bits of information shine a light into the struggle of racism in America, in hopes of raising awareness and consciousness of this struggle through the pursuit of knowledge.

"End of the Line: Tracing Racial Inequality from School to Prison," By Lizbet Simmons

Simmons takes a look at how the increasing zero-tolerance tough on crime disciplinary policies, the growing presence of law enforcement, and the pervasive use of surveillance systems adopted by schools affects and targets black students and other people of color by "taking students out of the classroom (sometimes for negligible offences), diminishing their academic opportunities, and threatening their ability to graduate with a high school degree." While violent crime in public schools is mostly perpetuated by white males, black students are seen as violent, deviant, and dangerous problem students. These sentiments are detrimental to young black men trying to get an education and become successful by impeding progress and education.

"The Modern Mammy and the Angry Black Man: African American Professionals' Experiences
with Gendered Racism in the Workplace
," a study by Harvey Wingfield

The absent black father, the suffering black wife, the hypersexual and submissive Asian woman, and the greedy Asian businessman. These stereotypes are examples of how gender and race become intertwined in racial discrimination. Wingfield explores how gender is used to further discriminate against people of color, creating another facet to dominate, positioning the white male as the norm. Wingfield notes how African American individuals experience racism based on gender, giving a comparative analysis of the ways black professional men and women's experiences with racism differ based on gender.

"Crime, Race, and Values," by James Q. William

"This article explores the association between racism and crime in Los Angeles, California. Whites are afraid of young African American males. It is not racism that keeps whites from exploring neighborhoods, it is fear. Fear of crime, of drugs, of gangs, of violence. Fear is not confined to whites. Many African American women fear African American men as well, and their fear is doubly corrosive because they have fewer avenues of escape and less reason to think the police will help them than do white women. The best way to reduce racism real or imagined is to reduce the African American crime rate to equal the white crime rate."

"Cultural Racism and Structural Violence: Implications for African Americans"

"This article discusses why it is important to consider how cultural racism contributes to the construction of motives and justifications among individuals who have committed acts of structural violence, including, lynching, hate crime and police violence against African Americans. Cultural racism is also discussed as a factor that contributes to interpersonal structural violence in situations involving black offenders and victims" - Taylor & Francis Ltd.


"The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequalities", a book by Thomas M. Shapiro

Shapiro, Thomas M. The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

"How can disadvantage persist so long after most laws, minds and practices have changed? Thomas M. Shapiro argues in this sober and authoritative book that we should look to disparities of wealth for the answer. Whites are wealthier than African Americans, and whites' wealth advantage is much bigger than their advantages in either income or education (the point of Shapiro's earlier study, Black Wealth/White Wealth, co-authored with Melvin Oliver). Whites start out ahead because they inherit more from their parents, and America's racially segregated housing markets boost whites' home equities, while depressing those of African-American families. Shapiro, a professor of sociology at Brandeis, takes readers through the implications of these inequities and concludes that African Americans will not gain significant ground in the wealth divide until inheritance and housing policies change." - Reviewed by Michael Hout, Washington Post

"Understanding Everyday Racism," an interdisciplinary theory by Philomena Essed

Essed, Philomena. Understanding Everyday Racism: An Interdisciplinary Theory. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1991. Print.

"While there are numerous studies of racism and racial inequality at the macro-level of analysis, there has been little work done on the experience of everyday racism for black people. Philomena Essed's brilliant work fills this gap. This landmark volume compares contemporary racism in the United States and the Netherlands through in-depth interview data from more than 2,000 experiences of black women. As an interdisciplinary analysis of gendered social constructions of racism, it breaks new ground. Essed problematizes and reinterprets many of the meanings and everyday practices that the majority of society has come to take for granted. She addresses crucial but largely neglected dimensions of racism: How is racism experienced in everyday situations? How do black women recognize covert expressions of racism? What knowledge of racism do black women have, and how is this knowledge acquired? How do they challenge racism in everyday life? To answer these questions, over two thousand experiences of black women are analyzed within a theoretical framework that integrates the disciplines of macro- and micro-sociology, social psychology, discourse analysis, race relations theory, and women's studies." - SAGE Publications, Inc.

 "Systemic Racism" By Joe R. Faegin

Feagin, Joe R. Systemic Racism: A Theory of Oppression. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

"In this book, Feagin develops a theory of systemic racism to interpret the highly racialized character and development of this society. Exploring the distinctive social worlds that have been created by racial oppression over nearly four centuries and what this has meant for the people of the United States, focusing his analysis on white-on-black oppression. Drawing on the commentaries of black and white Americans in three historical eras; the slavery era, the legal segregation era, and then those of white Americans. Feagin examines how major institutions have been thoroughly pervaded by racial stereotypes, ideas, images, emotions, and practices. He theorizes that this system of racial oppression was not an accident of history, but was created intentionally by white Americans. While significant changes have occurred in this racist system over the centuries, key and fundamentally elements have been reproduced over nearly four centuries, and US institutions today imbed the racialized hierarchy created in the 17th century. Today, as in the past, racial oppression is not just a surface-level feature of society, but rather it pervades, permeates, and interconnects all major social groups, networks, and institutions across society."

"Racial Formation in the United States", a publication by Michael Omi and Howard Winant

"Omi and Winant provide an account of how concepts of race are created and transformed, how they become the focus of political conflict, and how they come to shape and permeate both identities and institutions. The steady journey of the U.S. toward a majority nonwhite population, the ongoing evisceration of the political legacy of the early post-World War II civil rights movement, the initiation of the 'war on terror' with its attendant Islamophobia, the rise of a mass immigrants rights movement, the formulation of race/class/gender 'intersectionality' theories, and the election and reelection of a black President of the United States are some of the many new racial conditions Racial Formation now covers."