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Public Policy Professors Discuss Differences in Racialized Experiences

Two faculty members who grew up in eastern North Carolina talk about differences in the perception of racialized experiences in similar geographic, temporal and social contexts

Don Taylor

Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy

“Jay, I think one thing folks sometimes ask me is, what’s the difference between racism and structural racism, and how do we get this language straight so we can learn to talk to each other more clearly?”

Jay Pearson

Assistant Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy

“It’s an important distinction. Structural racism as we know it in contemporary U.S. society is a set of social arrangements, relationships and conditions that are systemically advantageous to the majority population, whites, while being simultaneously systemically disadvantageous to minority populations of color. And structural racism holds that macro-level processes associated with racial construction, racial hierarchy as well as racial bias are, or were, central organizing features of the nation that were established before its formal founding and that remain salient to the U.S. social order even until today.

“These are multifaceted, interconnected and co-occurring phenomena. This means that structural racism is inextricably linked to U.S. national identity. It pervades and suffuses virtually every major institution comprising U.S. society and is consequently systemic. As such, it negatively impacts and determines the life chances and lived experiences of U.S. populations of color to the benefit of white Americans far beyond what most people think of as racism, which is interpersonal discrimination, right?

“And you know those of us that do this work argue that this is who we are. It’s who we’ve been, since before the inception of the nation and current animated protest against overt gross dehumanizing racial injustice, in the form of homicide against Black men and women – notwithstanding who we are likely to continue being without similarly animated policy changes in our political economic, educational, academic policing, carceral and not least of these, legal justice systems.”

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