Systemic racism is a global, national and local issue, underlying and amplifying many of our most critical social challenges. In this section, we examine a wide range of indicators that highlight racial and ethnic disparities within such areas of life as Children & Youth, Economy & Workforce, Education and Financial Self-Sufficiency.
The disparity data reflects the effects of centuries of structural racism in America, starting with the simultaneous genocide of indigenous peoples and enslavement of Africans and moving through the development and institutionalization of racist ideology and policies impacting nearly every facet of life in this country. In the United States, long-standing and far-reaching structural systems have been created and sustained over centuries to hinder access to economic, educational and social opportunities for people of color and their families, while also facilitating greater access to those opportunities for White people and their families.
These historic and current policies, practices and systems include housing policies that restrict access to people of color, employment discrimination, unequal access to financial services and capital, education systems that fail to equitably educate all students, racism in health care delivery, racial profiling and inequitable sentencing in policing and criminal justice and many others. These inequities have compounded over generations, impacting decades of family members. This is significantly illustrated by the redlining practices of the 1930s that blocked Black people and people of color from securing real estate, leaving them unable to benefit from a critical opportunity to create and transfer wealth across generations.
As a result of these racist policies and systems, we see very large disparities in the indicators included in this section which range from educational assessments to poverty and income to homeownership rates. We invite you to explore the data in this section in the context of the structural and systemic racism that underlies these disparities.
In our county of more than 780,000 people, many are impacted. While Essex County is 80% white, our population includes about 31,000 African Americans (4%), 27,000 Asians (3%), and 22,500 people (3%) who identify as being of two or more races. In addition, people of Hispanic heritage (which is considered by the U.S. Census to be an ethnicity, rather than a race) make up 20% of our residents, or close to 160,000 people.
We also recommend the following resources to learn more about structural racism: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (https://newjimcrow.com/), Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein and Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. There are also data resources such as the National Equity Atlas; racial equity-focused research from organizations like the Urban Institute; tools for learning and change such as those available at Racial Equity Tools, including this paper on race and systems thinking; and personal narratives from writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates.