Of course it is. That's the conventional wisdom, anyway, among millions of Americans--that societal institutions like education, housing, and employment have baked-in barriers to black and Latino opportunity. These barriers are often described as unintentional remnants of the Jim Crow era, "deeply entrenched historical legacies ... produced through interactive networks of individuals and institutions." Recently, though, a friend of mine has been doubting this scenario. His point is that in the year 2011, opportunity is there for whoever wants it. So what, he says, if you're poor or go to a lousy school--work hard and you can succeed.
But does the poor kid stuck in a lousy school have an equal opportunity to succeed as the middle-class kid in an average school district? If not, does that disparity fit the definition of structural racism? And what data is there on structural racism in general? I had to admit that I have not looked closely at the primary evidence. I tend to believe in the concept, but I'm operating on a lifetime of absorbed statistics, logical arguments, books, articles, anecdotes, and the experiences of my friends, family, and myself. I need to examine some hard numbers. So I've decided to go on a data quest.
Why bother? Well, I'd like to win the debate with my friend. If I can convince him, that's one more person who could help eliminate structural racism. I will have built a set of statistics to use in my work. Also: I believe it's important to challenge my own beliefs, because race is such a subjective subject to write about. And if I can't convince my friend, because the data shows something other than what I thought--well, then I'll have with a greater understanding of the forces affecting black and brown people in America. I will have learned something new.
So let the journey begin. I'll report back along the way. Suggestions welcome--especially from sk
Jesse Washington is a Senior Writer for ESPN's TheUndefeated.com