Structural Theories of Racial Inequality
Structural Theories of Racial Inequality identify racism within social structures, such as education, institutional policies, laws, and housing and health care practices.
Many critical race theorists, such as Professor Derrick Bell, Advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Critic and Professor, Richard Delgado, have written about the importance of understanding why individual prejudices and biases do not fully explain the continuing existence of racism, especially given that many overtly racist policies and laws have long been dismantled. Structural theories tend to focus on how racism is maintained by identifying racist practices in institutions. For
For example, in the United States such practices as redlining and divestment in poorer neighborhoods result in lower property taxes. Since the quality of public schools is directly tied to property taxes, the schools in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods tend to have fewer resources compared to schools in more affluent neighborhoods. According to Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton (1993), the United States is a racially and residentially segregated society. African Americans are overrepresented in poor neighborhoods as a result of past and current racist and discriminatory housing practices, such as realtors refusing to sell or rent houses to African Americans in white neighborhoods; including, but not limited to credit and criminal background checks.
As a result, African Americans continue to be steered into racially segregated neighborhoods where housing investment is low and social and economic opportunities are few or nonexistent. Another theoretical framework examines the role of racial hierarchies to explain how different racial and ethnic groups fare compared to whites and to one another. One model, the black-white model, has generated major debate among scholars who study race and ethnicity. Joe R. Feagin (2000) and George Yancey (2006) argue that the black/white model is useful because African Americans are the most racially disadvantaged group by systemic racism and have experienced oppression far longer than most minority groups in the United States. Furthermore, antiblack racism is one of the most ingrained social institutions in the United States (Feagin 2000).
Researchers argue that this model can be applied to other racial and ethnic groups, but they maintain that the bipolar model is still necessary before one can fully understand racial inequality.
RACIAL INEQUALITY IN THE UNITED STATES
The history of racism in the United States is similarly tied to economic exploitation achieved through racial violence and justified through the creation and maintenance of racial hierarchies. The colonization of the United States resulted in the genocide of Native Americans who occupied the land prior to European settlement. White capitalists violently forced African slaves to the Americas for the purpose of unwaged labor, resulting in the economic growth of the United States. Theories of the racial inferiority of nonwhites—specifically African slaves, Native Americans, and Mexicans but many others as well—were invented to justify their exploitation and the use of violence against them.
Although overt racist policies and laws (e.g., slavery, legal racial segregation) have been, to some extent, dismantled, their effects remain embedded in American social institutions. Quality education is tied to property value, resulting in greater social, political, and economic opportunities for those who live in affluent neighborhoods. In contrast, the overrepresentation of African Americans in poor neighborhoods results in decreased opportunities for upward mobility.
Because of this institutionalized racism in the United States and no current legislation to dismantle it, Black people may continue to fill low-wage, low-skill, part-time jobs that do not provide benefits.
Racial profiling continues in 2016, along with stricter sentencing for African Americans convicted of crimes, results in their over-representation in American prisons and consequently decreased opportunities upon their reentry into mainstream society. Racial inequality continues to exist in the United States because society has been structured around racial lines and those with white supremacist beliefs continue to breathe life into the disenfranchisement of Blacks.
Should white privilege be dismantled, most if not all advantages for Whites would cease to exist. Racial inequality endures because it is at home in a “color-blind” society that is ingrained with racist practices that still have been ignored going into year-2017.