What is Institutional Racism?

Kwame Ture burst open the world’s understanding of oppression when he coined the phrase ‘institutional racism.’ His work and life challenges us to examine how spaces, policies, and rules can embody racism even in the absence of explicit racists. By only focusing on relationships or internalized thoughts, we lose the opportunity to enable sustained change. In this email we unpack institutional racism from a variety of perspectives. 

How does institutional racism connect with internalized and interpersonal racism?

  • Internalized racism affects interpersonal relationships
  • Interpersonal relationships are governed by institutional rules
  • Institutions overlap to produce systems such that racism in healthcare mirrors racism in schools and other areas

Internalized thoughts 
shape behaviors
which are guided by rules
rules distribute resources
which are controlled by institutions
institutions overlap to form structures


The video Institutional Racism Explained Through A Michael Jackson Song below is both illuminating but also open to critique. I invite you to engage the video through a critical lens. What follows is the powerful work of Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, as well as additional resources to think deeper about the interlocking nature of racism and anti-racism in our everyday lives.

Institutional Racism Explained Through A Michael Jackson Song

Michelle Alexander Explains The New Jim Crow

Helpful Resources

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Video Transcriptions and Image Descriptions for the Anti-Racist Teaching Practices and Learning Strategies Workbook

This page contains the Video Transcriptions and image Descriptions of all the videos and images used within the “Anti-Racist Teaching Practices and Learning Strategies Workbook: Building anti-racist, anti-oppressive and decolonized teaching and learning practices through transforming knowledge, lesson preparation, classroom management, teaching strategies and assessment.” By Warren Chalklen, PhD and Gcobani Qambela, PhD. 

This page is provided to assist those who encounter difficulties in using the media used within the workbook. The transcriptions and descriptions appear in the same order that they appear within the workbook.

Click the links below to access the visual descriptions:

Develop And Apply Your Own Equity Values

Defining and applying our own equity values is a critical part of an anti-racist practice. Use the Name, Define, Apply and Reflect model below to advance equity.

Step 1: Name your equity values

Equity describes practices of fairness and justice. Without thinking, write down your top three equity values and principles:

Example Value: Listening

Value #1:

Value #2

Value #3

Step 2: Define each value

Define each value in one or two sentences.  Ask yourself, would a young child or stranger understand your definition?

Example definition for listening: I am seeking understanding not listening to respond.

Step 3: Apply

Imagine that you are reading with your scholar or watching TV with a friend and you come across the image below from a Dr. Seuss children’s book. How might you apply your principles of equity to engage your scholar in a conversation?

Apply each value to your conversation and take notes.

Step 4: reflect

Reflect on your conversation The following questions might be helpful:

Reflect in action: How is my conversation going? What am I learning about my scholar and myself?

Reflect on action: How did the conversation go? How did my approach to the conversation shape it?

Reflect for action: What actions might we take as a result of our conversation?

Revolutionary Love, Radical Justice

From Justice to Joy - Anasa Troutman

Learn more about Anasa Troutman here: https://www.anasatroutman.com/

3 Lessons from Revolutionary love in a time of rage

Visit Valerie Kaur's REvolutionary Love lab

Explore Valerie Kaur’s Revolutionary Love Lab here: https://valariekaur.com/see-no-stranger/extend/#practices

Learn more About Radical Love and Justice:

Analyzing the Roots of Racism in Healthcare and White Terrorism

Conducting a root cause analysis is critical to those committed to an anti-racist practice.

Below, we ask But why?  to peel back the layers of racial injustice and identify how systems coalesce to form systemic racism. Dr. Susan Moore was a practicing physician from Jamaica who received her medical lisence from University of Michigan. In the video below, Dr. Moore shares her experience of racial bias in her care.

A few days after this video Dr. Moore tragically passed away. By asking Why, we can unpack the internal, interpersonal, institutional and ultimately structural reasons for her death.

After viewing the example below, scroll down to apply the But Why? framework to the different ways in which police responded to White terrorism and Black Lives Matter protests.

Example: But Why Did the Doctor ignore Dr. Moore's Pain?

Now, Conduct a Root Cause Analysis on the following example:

Watch the video above and then conduct your own Root Cause Analysis:

Why did the police respond differently to white terrorists compared to black protesters?