It's Institutional

I want to take a moment to expand on my post from yesterday. What I mean when I say the race issue is going to be interesting to dig up is this:

I'm a firm believer in the old adage that the biggest race problem in the United States today is the fact that white people don't believe there's a race problem in the United States today. The logic that leads to this conclusion is that today racism is not so much overt discrimination (although that still definitely happens) but institutional discrimination, whereby deeply ingrained systems and institutions behave to reproduce class and cultural stratification based on ethnicity. Thereby, it's not that folks are starting their day to say "I'm going to be a big racist and discriminate," it's more that not enough people are waking up and saying "I'm going to tear down the structures of institutionalized discrimination." Complacency caused by the idea that "we solved racism with civil rights in the 60's" is a great way to end up in this situation.

Yesterday, I read an article in the business section of CNN by a woman who was arguing against legislation to encourage employers to narrow the income gap between men and women. You can read the article if you like, but here's a synopsis: women these days aren't overtly discriminated against, but instead make less because they choose to major in English and take career breaks to have kids.

Now, this is a fine logical argument, except for the fact that it completely ignores the concept of institutional discrimination. The very idea that we would arrange society to reward less people who major in English and choose to spend time with their kids, which are two traits found disproportionately among women (her assumption, not mine) is in and of itself INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION. Just the same way that mortgage brokers lend at worse rates to people looking to buy a house in neighborhoods with higher crime rates, that just happen to be black community centers (for example) is also discriminator to black folks.

My point of all this is that upon reading that article yesterday, it struck me that we haven't just forgotten about race as a real issue in this country, we've forgotten about a whole concept of methods of discrimination. Or maybe we never learned.