Ariel S. Michigan

Institutional Racism

Letter on institutional racism to our next president.

Dear Madame/Mr, President,

Institutional Racism is defined as the pattern of social institutions — such as governmental organizations, schools, banks, and courts of law — giving negative treatment to a group of people based on their race. (Chegg)

In this letter, I would like to address institutional racism, which is undeniably one of the largest problems facing America today. While anyone can turn the other cheek when someone makes a rude comment based on their race, or they can “sticks and stones” it, institutional racism is not so easily ignored. Whether it be found in trivial things, (such as that fact that there are fewer Pokemon Go locations in black neighborhoods) (USAToday) or in matter of life and death things (black people wait longer in emergency rooms) (NPR), it’s there. I would like to know what you plan to do about it. Although you can’t change people’s hearts, you can change policy. In this letter I would like to address three major instances of institutional racism; medicine, public education and our law enforcement system.

“Hospital’ing” while black is now a term. Our healthcare system may not be what people are usually reminded of when they hear the term "racism", institutional or otherwise, however, maybe it should be. Racial minorities are no longer denied entry to hospitals due to the color of their skin, nor are they used for medical experiments anymore, however they still do not receive the same standard of care as their white counterparts.

The Journal of Pain and Symptom management ran a study that looked for discrepancies in treatment between whites and black at end of life care. The study sent in black and white actors acting as patients. Each with another actor portraying a family member. While the actual words the doctors spoke to the “patients” were consistent despite race, their body language differed immensely. The doctors responded to the white “patients” with seemingly more compassion. They stood closer to them and even held their hand or used other light, comforting, touches. However, with the black patients, the doctors stood closer to the door, using their hands solely to hold their binder. A posture that could make them appear “defensive or disengaged”. (Huffington Post). African Americans, are oftentimes undertreated for their pain, compared to their white counterparts. This is caused in part by the wild stereotypes still believes by medical professionals today. White medical students and residents were quizzed by researchers at the University of Virginia to see how many of them still believed crazy stereotypes (Washington Post). They found that “fully half thought at least one of the false statements presented was possibly, probably, or definitely true. To give you a gauge on the types of statements they said things like, “black have less sensitive nerve endings”, that simply means that black people can feel less pain than white people. They also said that “Black people’s blood coagulated more quickly”which means that the blood of black people clots more quickly (Washington Post). When these statements are in plain and simple English, they sound absolutely ridiculous, so why do our medical professionals still believe this outdated rhetoric.

Another instance of Institutional racism is our public education system. We see that minority students have less access to experienced or even fully certified teachers than their white counterparts, according to studies done by the U.S. Education Department. According to the U.S. Education Department's Civil Rights data collections, five percent of white students were suspended yearly, compared with 16 percent of black students. Black girls were suspended at a rate of 12 percent — much higher than girls of other ethnicities. This type of clear discrimination and blatant inequality, makes for lower academic performance of minority students and a greater risk of dropping out of school. Students of color can also be caught in this “school-to- prison pipeline” (Huffington Post). This simply means that many of the zero-tolerance policies that have been adopted by schools, do nothing but usher students of color, or otherwise disadvantaged kids into prison and juvenile delinquency programs. This practice does nothing but criminalize students of color and “pollute the future waters of society”, according to Alexander Reynolds of the Huffington Post.

The last instance I will cite in this letter is institutional racism in our law enforcement. I would like to preface this with, I understand what our police officers face on a day to day basis, the truly dangerous people they come in contact with (or could potentially come in contact with). However the facts show that black people (mainly men) are disproportionately shot, than white men. The history of the American police system is especially torrid. In the South, the beginning of the modern police system was the "Slave Patrol"(Bloomberg). Slave patrols had 3 main jobs, 1) to chase runaway slaves and return them to their owners, 2) to be a type of organized terror in order to deter slave revolts, and 3) to maintain discipline amongst slave who may have broken plantation laws. After the Civil War groups like this did not go away, they instead evolved into modern Southern police departments by enforcing "Jim Crow" segregation laws.

Today, the statistics are astounding. Black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by police than white people, 30 percent of the black people killed were unarmed as opposed to the 19 percent of whites in 2015, and it's not about crime. Fewer than 1 in every 3 black people killed by police in America in 2015 were suspected to a violent crime, or allegedly armed.

I hope you take this letter to heart, acknowledge the deep rooted problems we face in this country and work to fix them.

Respectfully, Ariel S.

Okemos High School

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