Systemic racism meaning: What does systemic racism mean?

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George Floyd, an African-American man, died outside a store in Minneapolis on May 25. After being arrested, police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. In footage of the arrest, Mr Floyd pleaded with the officer stating “I can’t breathe”, but was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Results from a private autopsy have now been released, and medical examiners hired by Mr Floyd’s family said he died from asphyxia (lack of oxygen).

Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, said: “The cause of death in my opinion is asphyxia, due to compression to the neck – which can interfere with oxygen going to the brain – and compression to the back, which interferes with breathing.”

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Floyd family, told a press conference: “Beyond doubt he would be alive today if not for the pressure applied to his neck by officer Derek Chauvin and the strain on his body by two other officers.

He added: “The ambulance was his hearse.”


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Mr Floyd’s death has caused a global outcry, with protests taking place across the US and in the UK.

Derek Chauvin and three other police officers at the scene were fired from the police department of Minneapolis last week.

Chauvin was arrested on Friday, charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of Mr Floyd.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told a news briefing: “He is in custody and has been charged with murder.

“We have evidence, we have the citizen’s camera’s video, the horrible, horrific, terrible thing we have all seen over and over again, we have the officer’s body-worn camera, we have statements from some witnesses.”

The death of Mr Floyd is the latest in a string of similar incidents involving police brutality in the US over recent years.

Mr Floyd’s death has prompted global discussions on the issue of systemic and institutional racism.


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What is systemic racism?

Racism refers to prejudice and discrimination against someone of a different race, and systemic racism refers to the racist established policies and practices of institutions in society.

Systemic racism, or institutional racism, defines how racism exists in schools, police departments and the courts, along with other societal institutions.

As The Conversation explains, systemic racism “refers to how ideas of white superiority are captured in everyday thinking at a systems level”.

Stokely Carmichael and Charles V Hamilton wrote about institutional racism in the 1967 book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation: “When a black family moves into a home in a white neighborhood and is stoned, burned or routed out, they are victims of an overt act of individual racism which most people will condemn.

“But it is institutional racism that keeps black people locked in dilapidated slum tenements, subject to the daily prey of exploitative slumlords, merchants, loan sharks and discriminatory real estate agents.

“The society either pretends it does not know of this latter situation, or is in fact incapable of doing anything meaningful about it.”

The death of George Floyd, and other black people in similar circumstances in recent years, has prompted discussion on the prevalence of institutional racism in the criminal justice system.

The Washington Post reports unarmed black people are 3.5 times more likely to be shot by police than unarmed white people in the US.

Black people are also more likely to be searched during traffic stops, or be the target of drug raids.

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