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Race and History Forum

Institutional Racism Instructional

The Racial Caste System

Some Numbers

Black people are 14% of illegal drug users and 35% of those arrested for possession. (US Public Health Service study, cited in Jerome Miller, 1996. 'Search and Destroy: African American Males in the Criminal Justice System. NY: Cambridge University Press)

Based on current rates of incarceration, a statistical model by the Bureau of Justice Statistics predicts 'a young Black man age 16 in 1996 faces a 29 percent chance of spending time in prison during his life. The corresponding statistic for white men in the same age group is 4 percent.' (cited in Paul Street, 'Race, Prison, and Poverty', Z Magazine, July/August 2001).

Black and white rates of school rule infractions are roughly equal but black students are twice as likely as whites to be suspended or expelled. Whites are just as likely to bring weapons to school but blacks are half of all students suspended or expelled for weapons violations. (Rebecca Gordon, Libero Della Piana and Terry Keleher, 2000. Facing the Consequences: An Examination of Racial Discrimination in US Public Schools. Oakland: Applied Research Center. Cited in Tim Wise, 'See no Evil', Znet Commentary, August 2, 2001)

The unemployment rate for blacks in 1992 was 14%. The white rate was 6%. (Farai Chideya, 'Don't Believe the Hype'. Penguin Books, 1995). In 1995 white males were 29% of the labour force held 95% of senior management positions. (1995 government report cited in Holly Sklar, 'The Snake Oil of Scapegoating', Z Magazine).

On the Washington monument, 28% of the fallen soldiers listed had Latino names. 3% of the US army officer corps is Latino. (cited in 'Las Veinas Abiertas del Pueblo Latino', by Mario Hardy. Z Magazine, November 1999).

From 1994-2000, the Immigration and Naturalization Service spent $2 billion policing the US Mexico border. The 8000 border agents were unable to prevent 32 incidences of violent vigilante action against Latino immigrants in that same period. (Vijay Prashad, 'The Hunt For Mexicans', Znet Commentary, July 16 2001). Though estimates of the percentage of illegal immigrants from Mexico range from 39% to 54%, over 90% of illegal immigrants apprehended are Mexican. (Nic Paget-Clarke, The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border: Interview with Maria Jimenez, IN
MOTION MAGAZINE, Feb. 2, 1998, available at .)

Native America occupies 4% of US land and receives the majority of its nuclear waste. 31% of Native families live below the poverty line. $1300 per capita is spent on health care in Native communities. The overall average is $2600. On the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota , '60 percent of women have diabetes as a result of malnourishment. Average income is $4,500/year. Twenty percent of homes lack a functioning toilet and telephone. The average household head receives $32 bimonthly from welfare. Unemployment consistently hovers well above 50 percent.' (Steven Nasr Salaita, '…Invisible, with Liberty and Justice for All', Z Magazine)

The Racial Caste System

Justin Podur (2002)

Racism is a social system that has two main effects: first, to constrain people's lives by sorting them into positions in a hierarchy of power, prestige, status, wealth, opportunity, and life chances; and second, to maintain, extend, and reproduce this hierarchy by using political, economic, patriarchal, and cultural power. The system has five key components:

(1) The economic system-- shunting people of colour to the bottom of the economic system and keeping them there;

(2) Geography-- maintaining spatial separation between white people and people of colour, or, if space is shared, ensuring that the space is controlled by whites;

(3) Culture-- by denying people of colour the means of communication, by controlling cultural institutions to determine how people communicate and therefore think about themselves and society;

(4) The state-- by using force to fight any changes in the other components of the system; by denying political power to people of colour;

(5) Kinship and Gender-- by enforcing separation between races, preventing intimacy and socialization together, race is maintained as a social fact.

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