Is the US ready to fight racism?

When most people think of racism, they probably think of racial slurs, hate crimes or other racist acts. However, there is something else that is more damaging, which is structural and systemic racism.

Racism is the degradation of people of colour to an inferior status, as well as the unfair treatment and oppression of people of colour, whether intentional or not.

Racism is not always conscious, intentional or explicit, but is often systemic and structural. Systemic and structural racism is a pervasive and embedded form of system-wide, entrenched laws, policies, practices and unfair treatment of people of colour.

While systemic racism and structural racism are often used interchangeably, they have somewhat different emphases.

Systemic racism emphasises the complicity of entire systems, e.g. political, legal, economic, healthcare, school, and criminal justice systems, including the structures that uphold the systems.

American racist biases persist over time and permeate institutional structures, society, individual mentality, daily interaction patterns.

Systemic racism operates with or without intention and with or without awareness. But because these responses are based on socially defined racial categories, they are racialised. And because they are negative, they reveal the roots of racism.

At the level of most behaviours, they are also controllable, although many non-black people rarely notice this relentless pattern.

Understanding this formidable challenge, understanding is needed to dismantle it. Cognitive science can illuminate the extent of inbuilt racial biases because it has the methods and theories to do so.

Moreover, studying racial bias is interesting, it will enhance science and clear pathways to ensure a peaceful and respectful society economically, politically, and socially.

In many ways, the United States and other governments face human trafficking challenges and trends that reflect the living legacy of systemic racism and globalised colonisation during the transatlantic slave trade through chattel slavery and regional practices of dispossession of indigenous populations.

US and global data show that traffickers disproportionately target those in positions of socioeconomic vulnerability or political discriminatory policies, who are often people of colour or part of racial minorities.

US efforts to combat human trafficking have grown rapidly and sophisticated over the years. The United States still struggles with how to address the disparate impact of human trafficking on racial minority communities.

Another powerful way systemic racism has perpetuated human trafficking and hindered anti-trafficking efforts is through discriminatory government policies and private practices that create disparities in access to economic means or opportunities, to the exploitation of traffickers forcing victims into the sex trade or forced labour.

Predatory and exclusionary practices that prevent certain racialised communities from achieving financial stability and building generational wealth fuels human trafficking opportunities.

These harmful practices include redlining, loan discrimination, unequal distribution of government subsidies and services, prohibitions on entry into white-collar or higher-paying jobs, and the deliberate exclusion of certain professions from labour protections.

The inequalities created by systemic racism persist in part due to the deliberate destruction of certain racial groups’ social support networks.

Traffickers often seek out individuals with weaker community or family connections and less protection.

The chattel slavery system relied on the separation of family units during auctions and the slave trade. It also restricted the right to assemble and socialise to weaken communal ties so that the potential for rebellion was avoided.

This pattern of family and community division has led to the unfair over-representation of Black individuals in other systems, such as prisons, homeless and runaway youth services, and institutional care or foster care, which exacerbates the social isolation and vulnerability of being targeted for human trafficking.

Regardless, there are many things that can build an inclusive society, one of which is through education.

Early childhood education has the potential to expand opportunities for disadvantaged children, provided that programmes use inclusion as a guiding principle.

Meanwhile, the international community has committed to inclusive education. Universal access is the foundation of inclusion, and countries must address barriers related to socio-economic status, ethnicity, gender, language, disability and remoteness.

Cooperation among many actors to identify special needs early and provide integrated services is necessary, as is an inclusive curriculum supporting children’s socio-emotional development and identity formation.

Finally, educators must be provided with the knowledge, training and support to implement inclusive practices and work with families from all backgrounds.

The United States also has a community for a welcoming and inclusive society called NPNA (National Partnership for New Americans). It supports equality and opportunities for mutual respect without racism.