Institutional Racism

Posted: August 6th, 2013

Institutional Racism









            Institutional racism is a form of discrimination on groups of people that results in unequal access to opportunities and services based on an individual’s race (Lum, 2003). This is a common practice in major institutions whether governmental or private hence proving a difficult vice to rectify. It is rampant with individuals being differentially treated in institutions based on their skin colors or ethnicity. Conformists who find the racist systems in these institutions, instead of disagreeing with such systems, conform to them and practice them further enhance this form of racism in institutions. Institutional racism focuses on the practices coined in the system of an institution that results in the unequal access to available opportunities based on an individual’s race. I now understand that institutional racism does not refer to an individual’s action in a racist manner but on the general norms in an organization that result in the employees, mostly whites, acting in a racist manner towards another race, mostly the ‘non-white’ races.

Organizational contribution to institutional racism in the society

            One way in which organizations have contributed in the continuation of racism in institutions is by the use of standardized testing in employment. In most cases, Hispanics and blacks perform poorer than whites do in these tests, and this can be attributed to the quality of education received by these groups. For instance, the property appraisal system created in the early 20th century favors whites over these other races in the allocation of property and lending of loans. These leads to allocation of higher sums of educational funding to the white-occupied locations resulting in their receiving higher levels of education than their counterparts do. Other means by which governmental institutions have contributed to institutional racism is through over-representation in the number of affected non-whites in disease categories such as AIDS and drug addictions. Hence, by marginalizing races that are not white the governmental institutions lead to the spread and acceptance of workplace racism, which is adapted by other institutions.

Facts, terms, concepts, principles about institutional racism

            Institutional racism is commonplace in most government offices, with the acceptance of white privilege in the states. This is evident in the allocation of public resources with more preference being taken upon the white skinned where better education and health facilities are set up which are well equipped as compared to those in minority settlements (Lum, 2003). This leads to whites growing up with a high capability of attaining the standardized level of testing required in job provision. Yet another fact about institutional racism is that minority groups are treated with much more suspicion by the law enforcement authorities leading to the higher level of arrests and convictions, as the law enforcers fail to pursue potential white law offenders with the same suspicion they accord to the minority groups, especially the blacks.

Support of racial profiling is yet another way that the state shows its non-committal attitude towards the eradication of institutional racism. In addition, with the imbalanced and overstated statistics kept for the non-white majority, there ensues discrimination that leads to these minority groups receiving poor reception in health centers and this leads to hostility among the different groups. An activist coined the institutional racism term in the 1960’s with the intention of highlighting the plight of the minority groups in institutions with the hope that it would rectify people’s attitudes to these actions. It is a concept that has later received attention as racism has been noted to have an effect on those it is perpetrated against leading to their regress instead of progress (Lum, 2003). This is as seen in the achievement gap between educated minority students and educated white students who receive better acceptance in workplaces. This has led to the rise of other activists and though addressing and eradicating institutional racism will take long since attitudinal changes in individuals take long and so do norms in a workplace, eventually it will be achieved.

Theories about institutional racism

            A theory that focuses on institutional racism is the critical race theory. This theory insists on the importance of acknowledging the existence of the diverse races. It also recognizes that racism is deeply embedded in individuals thinking system hence eradicating it would require persistence and patience (Lum, 2003). It also acknowledges the diversity of races as a social construction tool that if well utilized can lead to the growth of the society. The critical race theory also realizes that there is the existence of differential racism according to the interests of the dominant social group. This would result in acceptance of the minority groups at one time when it suits them and discrimination when they feel threatened (Lum, 2003). Therefore, on understanding this theory one can tackle racism in a strategic manner to avoid one group feeling threatened but by showing all the groups the potential for mutual benefit if they worked together with equal opportunities.

The significance of knowledge in institutional racism in solving this problem at career individual level situations

            In my field of social work, there is a lot that, I can do to help in reducing institutional racism in my institution. This is possible where I can collect and analyze actions taken in the organization where the decisions touch on racial discrimination in the workplace. I would record and analyze these actions based on the provided situation and upon observation of the vice; I would alert the key decision makers in the organization on the impact that this practice would have both on the receptors and the organization itself. I would suggest that the practices in the organization be revised to those practices that would result in the benefit of both the persons seeking equal opportunity and the organization itself.

In my approach, I would ensure that I would not approach the subject in an accusatory way, blaming individuals for their actions as that would result in resentment and continued practice of the action. I would try to appeal to the interests of the organization by pointing to them the benefits that they would gain by eradication of racism in their institution. I would listen to their reasoning for employing such a system and discuss with them how upholding the human dignity by treating individuals equally would lead to every person offering their best service at work, hence resulting in growth for the organization. The facts of the history of this form of racism will further aid in convincing those in the institution who curve the procedures of the adverse effects of racism and the reason why the institutional norms need to be assessed and revised (Lum, 2003).


            Institutional racism has psychological, as well as emotional effects, on the individuals that are discriminated. Hence, in order to ensure that this is avoided, advocating for the rights of the minority groups in any organization is required. Revision of an organizations procedure in recruitment and service provision should occur to ensure that the practice is eventually eradicated. Living together, indiscriminate of individual’s race will result in less tension and further productivity hence this should be embraced.


Lum, D. (2003). Culturally competent practice: A framework for growth and action. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Print.


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