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MT Sidoli: Racial constructs have created systems of privilege

Principle No. 6: We recognize the centrality of systemic racism in maintaining economic oppression must be named, detailed and exposed empirically, morally and spiritually. Poverty and economic inequality cannot be understood apart from a society built on white supremacy. 

Jamal lives in a poor neighborhood, and all his neighbors are black.

The unemployment rate is high. Homeownership is rare, so schools funded by property taxes are underperforming and overcrowded and lack enrichment curricula such as art and music.

Kevin lives near Jamal in a different school district. All his neighbors are white. His parents are educated. Homeownership is high. So his school is well-funded, offering enrichment activities. 

Jamal is the only student in his high school who is accepted into college — the same college Kevin and his peers are attending — and graduates with a high GPA.  Then he encounters another racist construct. Employers often reject resumes with “black-sounding names.”

This disparity is the result of systemic and implicit racism. 

Kevin will not be racially profiled. He will have privilege in job opportunities and be able to amass wealth. His children will benefit from white privilege. Jamal may be profiled by police and have fewer job opportunities and will be unable to amass wealth in the same ways Kevin can. His children will inherit these disparities. 

Government district-drawing generations ago resulted in the poorest neighborhoods being “red-lined,” making mortgages unavailable to Jamal’s grandparents as was college education because of legal segregation. Building wealth begins with education and homeownership.

Kevin’s family accumulated wealth simply based on their race and the privilege that brings.

MT Sidoli is a member of the Salisbury Circle of the Poor People’s Campaign.

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