Introducing a New Series of Blog Posts!

A few months ago, when my dad was looking over a draft of my post on the racist writings on my family’s car and in my neighborhood, he said something along the lines of, “This post is fine, but one thing you haven’t addressed on your blog is institutional racism.”

He was right. I haven’t addressed that topic yet. It’s also a topic that’s important to address, in large part because institutional racism is often ignored or denied.

But what is institutional racism, and how do I plan to address this topic?

Most definitions, including mine, would describe institutional racism as racism that is practiced and sometimes even normalized by social, economic, governmental, and other institutions. Institutional racism could be subtle or overt, but one reason why I think many people deny the existence of institutional racism is because it is often so subtle.

My blog post series hopes to show that institutional racism exists, and that it exists in so many areas of our daily lives. I hope to do this through a series of four posts over the next few months: one on how it affected where my family lives, one on how it changed where my brother and I went to school, one on how it affected how I was policed (especially compared to most people in the majority-minority neighborhood I’m in), and one on how it affected my college experience.

I believe in making the case for the existence of institutional racism through parts of my own experiences because I believe that my stories, and the larger factors that play into my stories, are a few examples of the institutional racism I frequently hear about.

While institutional racism has affected me, I emphasize that, by-in-large, the institutional racism has been to my advantage as a white person, and to the disadvantage of people who are not white or are not labeled as white.

Some of my readers may already be on board with the idea that institutional racism exists, and some of my readers may even be able to cite personal examples of institutional racism helping or hurting themselves (or people they care about). However, I also hope that people who are skeptical of, or deny, the existence of institutional racism can see through my personal experiences that it does exist in the 21st century, in the United States of America.

Racism Exists Where You Don’t Expect It

A few weeks ago, someone (I don’t know who) wrote some extremely disturbing things on my family’s car and on street poles near my family’s house. The person wrote things like “n****r,” “Mexican n****r,” “black cop,” and “Black people are stupid.”

I was tempted to not say anything, anywhere, about all of this. I decided otherwise.

I will use my experience with such hateful rhetoric by saying this: racism exists where you don’t expect it.

People tend to associate racism with certain parts of the country, or even with certain parts of states. I’ve heard people from the northern United States make remarks about the “racist South.” I’ve heard people from northern New Jersey make remarks about how southern New Jersey is a hotbed for racists. I’ve heard people in New York City remark about how upstate New York has many racists. And, admittedly, I’ve been behind some of those remarks and/or have implicitly or explicitly agreed with many of those remarks.

But the thing is that I don’t live in southern New Jersey, upstate New York, or the southern United States. I live in New York City. People often don’t think of New York City as a hotbed for racists. Yet, I was staring at racism in my New York City neighborhood several weeks ago, both figuratively and literally.

The bottom line is this: racism exists in places where you don’t expect it. It exists everywhere. You don’t just see racism in southern Jersey; it exists in northern Jersey. It doesn’t just exist in upstate New York; it exists in New York City. It doesn’t just exist in states that used to be parts of the Confederacy; it exists in states that used to be part of the Union. If there is one thing about racism that doesn’t discriminate, it is in the places where racism actually exists.

So I hope that all of us stop trying to pretend that race issues are either from a bygone era or are in part of the country that is far away from where some of us live. Wherever people exist, racists exist. I just hope it doesn’t take seeing words like “n****r,” “Mexican n****r,” “black cop,” and “Black people are stupid” in your neighborhood to recognize that fact.

IMAG0538
This racist language was not found in Alabama or even southern New Jersey, but in my own neighborhood in New York City. This photo was taken by me.