How Can We Address Institutional Racism?

We examine the presence of institutional racism, how people respond to it, and how to change institutions to improve people’s lives. Institutional racism creates and perpetuates cycles of inequity. For example, Black men who were previously incarcerated report greater expectations of being negatively stereotyped compared to Black men who had never been incarcerated; these negative stereotype beliefs predict lower desire to seek further education (Murphy, Carter, Emerson, & Cheryan, Self & Identity, 2020).

Racial identity and political contexts influence whether institutional racism is recognized. White New Orleans residents were less likely than Black New Orleans residents to believe that the mismanaged federal response to Hurricane Katrina was due to racism (Blodorn, O’Brien, Cheryan, & Vick, Social Justice Research, 2016). The election of President Obama corresponded with increased beliefs among Americans that racial progress had occurred and predicted reduced support for policies that address racial inequities (Kaiser, Drury, Spalding, Cheryan, & O’Brien, JESP, 2009).

Institutions can change to improve the lives of people of color. Underrepresented students of color who learn that their university is creating a space for students of their racial and ethnic groups (e.g., an ethnic cultural center) report greater belonging, support, and academic engagement than underrepresented students of color who learn about a similar space for all students (e.g., a student union; Kirby, Tabak, Ilac, & Cheryan, SPPS, 2020). However, efforts to address institutional racism may have unintended negative consequences. The presence of diversity awards cause underrepresented students of color and women to be less likely to apply for more lucrative awards that are open to everyone (Germano, Ziegler, Banham, & Cheryan, Psych Sci, 2021)