Systemic racism involves all of the institutions, structures, histories and cultures upheld within a society interacting to keep a certain ethnic group down.
Whether or not systemic racism actually exists is currently the object of heavy debate. Because systemic racism is not as visually concrete as examples of interpersonal racism (i.e. calling someone a slur), many Americans fail to acknowledge the network of systems in America that continuously disenfranchise Black people.
This prime example of systemic racism was one even I hadn’t even thought of:
Earlier this month, ABC's Diane Sawyer interviewed an interracial couple from Florida whose story has circulated around the country.
Black attorney Abena Horton and her husband, a white artist, decided to get an appraisal on their home. Though their four-bedroom, four-bathroom ranch style home was twice as large as that of their neighbors it was valued at a much lower price.
“...I let myself forget that I live in America as a Black person and that I need to take some extra steps to get a fair result,” Horton said in her interview.
Indeed, when the couple decided to schedule a second appraisal -- this time temporarily removing all family pictures, African-American anthologies and artwork and any other indicators that a Black person lived in the home -- the same bank valued their home $135,000 higher than before.
This is what its like refinancing your home while black. And as disturbing as the Horton family’s experience was, it only scratches the surface; the tip of the iceberg of racial inequality in housing in the United States.
According to the Census Bureau, Black households have the lowest homeownership rate at 44% whereas white households have a rate of nearly 74%. The rate of Black homeownership is significantly lower because Black people have historically been and still are prevented from qualifying for loans and roadblocked from completing other home buying processes.
Credit score, one of the biggest qualifying factors in home buying, is just another way to gate-keep equity from black people in America, many of whom don't have adequate access to credit builders. In fact, only two-thirds of Black Americans have a FICO score, according to an annual Consumer Response report.
Many lower-income Black people in America who pay their rent, utility, and telephone bills on time, but still have them counted towards their credit, making it harder for them to qualify for a loan on a home.
Even when Black households do qualify for mortgages, we pay way more than white households. According to data analysis from the Pew Research Center, 73% of white homeowners had mortgage rates below 5% compared to only two-thirds of black homeowners.
Not to mention that segregation still plays a big hand in housing in America. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed over 50 years ago, and yet… the housing market still isn't fair.
The Century Foundation compiled Census data from 2013-2017 and found that 52.6% of African Americans would have to move for metropolitan areas to be fully integrated. This clear racial segregation, which dates all the way back to the time of slavery, diminishes the value of homes in Black neighborhoods.
The Urban Institute conducted a very interesting report citing multiple studies to show that the racial wealth gap would diminish if access to homeownership was equalized among races.
But there is clearly a long road ahead. Because the government plays such a hand in racial economic disparities throughout history and today, it is up to our politicians to actively reverse that role.
Systemic racism is real and it will take our leaders recognizing its existence to finally tackle the problem. Real estate discrimination is just one of systemic racism’s many faces.
Many Americans don’t see how Black people in the country can’t simply work to get ahead. Consider: how hard are we supposed to work to get ahead when there are so many systems fighting against us?
Olivia James is a 20-year-old mass communication junior from Baton Rouge.