Sample Sociology Essay Paper on Institutional Racism

Institutional Racism

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed homes of the majorly black populated New Orleans. It was observed that government agencies did not respond urgently to the catastrophe. Racial sentiments were expressed, for example, by Kanye West, a popular hip-hop musician, who said that President Bush did not care about the black people (Henkel et al. 100). It is true that the victims who were mostly black inhabited unsafe regions, in the lower regions that were vulnerable to flooding. In addition, the issue of blacks occupying the risky area has to do with national housing patterns, which was influenced by economic power. How are race problems connected to how institutions operate?

Racism has caused segregation, discrimination, and prejudice, and it is manifested in social institutions and structure, hence referred to as institutional racism. It is a concept that originated from the radical writing “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation” by radical political activists, Carmichael and Hamilton in 1968 (Philips 173). Segregation refers to the separation of a group or groups of people, preventing them from social interaction with others, for example, blacks were forced to live in separate residential areas from the whites (Lamb 3). Racial prejudice refers to negative thoughts, belief and attitudes about people of other race by disregarding the truth. Consequently, it leads to discrimination due to the preconceived ideology of existing differences (Henkel et al. 101). Discrimination can be perpetrated through social institutions that include; politics, mass media, economy, science, religion, popular culture, military, law, rules and regulations. Through them, policies, practices, or procedures are established that foster the ideology of differences and enhance racial discrimination.

The place of residence indicates the social status, because its location determines access to education, health facilities, jobs and other resources (Rosenblum & Toni 419). Residential segregation was perpetrated through discriminatory housing and mortgage policies that were unfair to the blacks. It caused the blacks to reside in overcrowded metropolitan areas while whites afforded the high-quality houses in suburban areas with quality standard of living and access to better schools and social amenities. The government supported Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) policies such as redlining that denied mortgages to buy land in the racially mixed areas. Secondly, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veteran Association upheld separation by implementing rules that made it difficult for blacks to acquire loans and occupy the suburban areas (423). The Supreme Court was also instrumental in supporting segregation, for example in ruling in 1896 on the Plessy v. Ferguson case, the court endorsed that states could segregate as part of social policy. It also led to blockbusting where whites would move out of areas where blacks migrated to (Lamb 21).  The loans were given to the whites’ middle class, therefore, causing residential segregation. The government further discriminated by developing the suburban areas and neglecting the cities where the blacks lived, for example, by building public roads that would enable the whites to commute to town easily from suburban residences (Rosenblum & Toni 418).

Scientists have also contributed greatly to racial discrimination, considering that they are trusted as sources of truth by the society. Scientific racism involves racist theories that depict the blacks as inferior and whites as superior. Such conclusions influence and guide governments and other social institutions in the implementation of policies, rules and regulations, therefore, the power of scientists in the society is great (Thompson 1). Scientists have sought to explain the differences that exist between people of different physical appearances by using intellectual measures. Some of these studies have been biased and done objectively to reinforce the prejudiced belief of inferiority in black people. Based on the theory of evolution by Darwin, sociologist Robert Spencer argued that the inequality was part of survival for the fittest and, therefore, a natural consequence that should be tolerated (Rosenblum & Toni 343). Swiss natural scientist Louis Agassiz, who became a professor in Harvard, disagreed with the biblical theory that all people are descendants of Adam. He claimed that there must have been more than one Adam. Following the assertions, physician Morton did a study using skulls to measure brain capacity and concluded that blacks had the lowest intelligence. Intelligence Quotient measurements initiated by Alfred Binet in 1904 also caused subsequent scientists to disregard influences of nurture on knowledge, and they leaned on innate differences (345). The biased studies led to unequal provision of education based on race, and the segregation and discrimination of blacks in education institutions.

Popular culture spread through some mass media has also contributed in biasing the reality that racial discrimination is real and in existence. An example is in 1840, when Minstrel variety music shows portrayed the blacks as contented with slavery, and that they were not suffering but enjoyed servitude treatment by the whites (Rosenblum & Toni 348). In conclusion, when people think of racism, it evokes periods of slavery. However, despite the end of slavery and even the passing of Civil Rights Act, racism is still alive in the American society. The racial inequalities that started from the historical times are still active social institutions.




Works Cited


Rosenblum, Karen Elaine, and Toni Travis. The meaning of difference: American constructions of race, sex and gender, social class, sexual orientation, and disability. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2012. Print.

Thompson, Amanda. “Scientific Racism: The Justification of Slavery and Segregated Education in America.” Gaines Junction 1.1 (2003):1-8. Web. 31 July. 2014.<>

Henkel, Kristin E., John F. Dovidio, and Samuel L. Gaertner. “Institutional discrimination, individual racism, and Hurricane Katrina.” Analyses of social issues and public policy 6.1 (2006): 99-124.Web. 31 July. 2014.<>

Phillips, Coretta. “Institutional racism and ethnic inequalities: an expanded multilevel framework.” Journal of social policy 40.01 (2011): 173-192. Web. 31 July. 2014. <>

Lamb, Charles M.Race, Segregation, and Housing in America “. (2014): 1-39. Web. 31 July. 2014. <>