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To the Editors of The Crimson:
Ambassador Andrew Young has taught the nation a good lesson in social science. He has effectively described institutional racism. When the opportunities, privileges, and responsibilities of a people are limited and circumscribed solely because of their race, the practice is racism. Those who create and control, support and sanction systems that limit others because of their race are racists, even though they may aid and assist a specific individual of the oppressed group and may be friends with one or more individuals of a race unlike their own.
Institutional racism has to do with the structure and function of our society rather than with the attitudes of individuals. Institutional racism consists of those practices and procedures in our community that harm racial minorities whether or not intended. Indeed, institutional racism could be the unintended outcome of behavior thought to be helpful. Institutional racism, therefore, has to do with effects or consequences rather than intentions. Racial minorities determine whether or not behavior is racist in terms of its negative effect. Racial majorities determine whether or not behavior is racist in terms of its positive intent. Behavior with a positive intent may have a negative effect.
Racism has to do with economic, educational, political and other institutions that are controlled by one racial group that arbitrarily limits the participation of the members of other racial groups in society. Any indicators of participation--income, occupation, education, life-expectancy, community decision making--demonstrate that people identified with black and brown racial populations have been arbitrarily excluded and dealt with in unfair ways. Because the basis for treating groups of people unjustly is their race, such unjust practices are appropriately labeled racism and the practitioners appropriately should be called racists. Institutional racism may be practiced by any group that controls the systems of society. Racists, therefore, could be blacks, browns or whites, depending on who is in charge.
In addition to institutional racism to which Ambassador Young has called our attention, this nation and many of its leaders at the local and national level have sanctioned and supported institutional sexism and institutional elitism. All are institutional sins that are debilitating to the oppressed and the oppressors. Those who are angered by Ambassador Young's charge should examine careful the consequences of their past actions and inactions as well as their intentions. An honest self-analysis might reveal that some of us are protesting too much. Charles V. Willie Professor of Education and Urban Studies Professor of Education and Urban Studies
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