Systemic Racism



Adapted from Biddle & Berliner, 2002

Let’s look at an example of implicit systemic racism. The data in this graph indicate that schools that serve more children living in poverty receive the least funding and support. This graph shows how much money is spent per-student by U.S. School Districts serving over 1,000 children. The percentage of students a school serves that live in poverty is shown on the vertical axis. The horizontal axis lists the amount of money schools spend per student. Schools with the highest percentage of students living in poverty have the least amount of money to spend per student. In schools where the need is highest, the resources are lowest. For example, in schools where over 20% of students live in poverty, there is only about $4,000 available to spend per student per year. But in schools where only about 5% of students live in poverty, there is typically about $13,000 available to spend per student per year. That is a $9,000 dollar difference for each student.

Now consider a classroom of 25 children. That difference comes out to about $225,000 MORE dollars per classroom in schools serving wealthier populations. Money that can be spent on hiring teachers, maintaining the building, and providing supplies. In a school with 16 classrooms, that number swells to 3.6 million more dollars that the school with wealthier students is able to spend (even equating for school size).

These policies aren’t advertised or promoted. But the result is that low-income schools systematically receive less funding and support. This is not the act of an individual, but of the system at work. You can read more about how the US funds our public schools by clicking the ‘Check It Out’ box.

  • Bias
    the belief that some people or ideas are better than others, usually resulting in unfair treatment
    Biological race
    physical racial features such as skin color, hair textures, and facial features
    Explicit racism/bias
    racism that is plainly expressed through words and or actions
    Implicit racism/bias
    racism that hides in our unconscious biases and gets expressed in our actions
    the beliefs and practices that uphold and reinforce inequalities based on race
    Social identity
    a person’s sense of self that is based on group membership
    Social race
    The social norms, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that accompany racial groups
    Systemic racism
    policies, practices, and laws that reinforce social inequalities by discriminating against groups of people, either directly or indirectly, and limiting their rights