Individual and Institutional Racism

When white terrorists bomb a black church and kill five black children, that is an act of individual racism, widely deplored by most segments of the society; but when in that same city — Birmingham, Alabama — five hundred black babies die each year because of the lack of proper food, shelter, and medical facilities, and thousands more are destroyed and maimed physically, emotionally, and intellectually because of conditions of poverty and discrimination in the black community, that is a function of institutionalized racism. When a black family moves into a home in a white neighborhood and is stoned, burned or routed out, they are victims of an overt act of individual racism which many people will condemn — at least in words. But it is institutional racism that keeps black people locked in slum tenements, subject to the daily prey of exploitative slumlords, merchants, loan sharks and discriminatory real estate agents. The society either pretends it does not know of this latter situation, or is in fact incapable of doing anything meaningful about it [1, p. 4].

1. Carmichael, S. and Hamilton, C. (1967). Black power: The politics of liberation in America. New York: Vintage.
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