Systemic Racism and Bob the Tomato

Systemic – of or relating to a system
Racism – discrimination or prejudice based on race

Systemic racism is usually not visible to the naked eye and so there are many who believe it doesn’t even exist. Systemic racism, also known as institutional racism is the result of an institution that is set up in a way that benefits some people and harms others… and often those working in or for the system can’t see it.

When explaining it to a friend over coffee I might summarize it like this:
Two men enter a bank to apply for similar mortgages in the same neighborhood. They have similar jobs, same length of time on those jobs, the same amount in savings, and the same credit score. Both men are approved for the loans but the interest rate for the Black man is higher than that of his white counterpart.

The loan manager may never even know that this is happening but when the information submitted by each man is entered, the system that generates the offers takes into account race… and considers the Black man a higher risk. The banking “system” has made it harder for the Black man to succeed than the white man. Both men may walk out of the bank happy with what they received, neither knowing of the discrepancy.

One institution that is deeply affected by this is our school systems. Two posts in this series (numbers 11 & 12) talk about our history and how much of it has been whitewashed. (What are some possible reasons the textbooks have been whitewashed? So that it’s less offensive to the majority of students? Are the concepts too painful to learn? Is it because we are ashamed of the actions of our ancestors?) I would argue that it boils down to money.

If the vast majority of people who are responsible for buying textbooks are white, it makes business sense for textbook writers to cater their content to that audience. Many think the histories of the Holocaust and Slavery are too graphic for students, so they are glossed over or eliminated altogether. (Google “whitewash textbooks” to read about several states.) If the textbook writers eliminate this content, the students grow up skeptical of information they weren’t taught in school. The “institution” inaccurately reflected history and that is directly impacting our society.

Because of hidden biases that many white people have, Black students face stronger punishment than their white peers. This phenomenon has led to what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. “The school-to-prison pipeline is a process through which students are pushed out of schools and into prisons.” Individual teachers may not be able to see the pipeline, but when you zoom out and look at things from a distance, it’s evident. Individual teachers may not be racist, but hidden biases severely contribute to the number of students pushed through this pipeline, and the results are felt in the economic stability of Black families for generations.

The system is set up in a way that harms Black and Brown children.

Because this area is of particular interest to me as an educator, here’s another article that makes some really good points. I won’t share them all because I want you to go read them for yourself and the descriptions of how each one plays out.

5 Facts Everyone Needs to Know About the School-to-Prison Pipeline
1. An increased prison population costs us all money. 
2. There is a link between dropping out of high school and going to prison.
(Go read the article for numbers 3 & 4)
5. The current way of dealing with “problem” students is not working. 

I have two videos for you to watch. The first is a four-minute animated video explaining systemic racism. Please note… it’s four minutes. It cannot expect to be fully accurate or to encompass every possible situation one may have experienced or heard of. My intent in sharing is to show you just how systemic racism can play out for a large population of Americans. The creator concludes the video with these words:
Luckily, we’re all part of the system which means that we all have a role to play in making it better. Alex Cequea

The second video is from someone many of you will recognize once the video starts: Bob the Tomato! Please set aside the 17 minutes it takes to watch the video.

Want the transcript with citations, click here.

* Understanding the School-to-Prison Pipeline By Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D. Updated May 30, 2019
* 5 Facts Everyone Needs to Know About the School-to-Prison Pipeline
* Do a google search for “school-to-prison pipeline” + {your state}. And because I’m a NC trained teacher, here’s a page for North Carolina that popped up.
* Systemic Racism Explained (animated video)
* Bob the Tomato talking about this stuff – Phil Vischer is his real name
* Phil Vischer’s Transcript and Citations
* And Campaign
* Be the Bridge

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Previous posts in this series:
Intro: #OnceYouSeeRacism
1. Build your “talking about racism” muscles. – {general racism}
2. The Dangers of the Colorblind Mentality – (color blind mentality}
3. Be Color Brave, Not Color Blind {color blind mentality}
4. See and Honor Color {color blind mentality; “the talk”}
5. What is an Ally? {allyship}
6. Allyship – digging deeper {allyship}
7. What Privilege? {white privilege}
8. Nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody. {white privilege}
9. What “White Privilege” is and is not. {white privilege}
10. Juneteenth… {freedom, history}
11. Erasing History… {freedom, history}
12. Jim Crow Laws {freedom, history}
13. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man – Emmanuel Acho
14. You are here… {systemic racism}

About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
This entry was posted in #OnceYouSeeRacism, Racism/Race Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Systemic Racism and Bob the Tomato

  1. Maria Currey says:

    Thank you for taking on racism and racial reconciliation head- and heart-on, Jennifer.
    Systemic racism so real and so wrong, I had a long conversation the other day with a precious man from our church who educated me about just such treatment he has received. Grieves my spirit.
    Again, thank you for boldly and bravely addressing all with truth, love, and invaluable and education.
    So deeply grateful!

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