If, like me, you're a white person in America, you have certain privileges that are afforded to you simply by virtue of your skin tone, whether or not you want to admit it. Those privileges also don't stop at simple, direct benefits like a lack of police profiling or more success at job interviews; there are more profound differences that change the very way we move in society that are harder to see - and these are the differences that are at the very heart of the institutionalized racism that haunts America, and will take a concerted societal effort to overcome.
Let's start at the very beginning - according to the CDC, if you are white, you have only half the risk of low birth weight (defined as less than 2.5 kg) - a condition associated with chronic health issues and significantly increased risk of infant mortality - as black people(1). Assuming you make it out of the hospital, your white parents' combined income (which necessarily affects the quality of your home, food, healthcare, etc) is going to be about 1.6 times the family income of a black family(2). As a result, as a white family instead of a black family, your home is more likely to be owned instead of rented(3) (and therefore more stable) and significantly less likely to be foreclosed upon in the event of financial trouble(4).
Your access to healthcare is also significantly more likely as a white person - more black people are uninsured than white people by a rate of approximately 3 to 2.(5) Once you get to school, whether as a result of less lead paint in your home(6), better childhood nutrition(7)(8), or the inherent racial bias in IQ tests(9), you are going to score better on tests than black children(10).
You're more likely to finish high school(11), more likely to enter college(12), and more likely to complete a degree(13). You'll get a higher income as you enter the job market - which puts us nicely at the beginning of the cycle started above, if you'd like to re-check the data. If you stay out of trouble, you are less likely to be a victim of violent crime(14), but if you engage in a healthy amount of disregard for the law, you're less likely to be arrested(15), and less likely to be sent to prison if you are(16).
This is, of course, entirely skipping the issue of racial profiling by police and other law enforcement officers(17), the racial disparity in unemployment rates(18), the racial disparity in military leadership(19), the list goes on and on and on in any category you care to name.
I haven't bothered debunking the myth that Affirmative Action is 'reverse racism', nor have I gone into great detail on the mind-boggling racial bias in our justice system. These topics deserve more than a two-sentence callout in this brief essay, and I will likely delve into them soon. You may also notice that the citations and footnotes comprise a good half of the text of this article - this is intentional. It is very, very easy to assume racism exists only in the sense of obvious acts of bias such as hate crime, bias in hiring and promotion rates, and other plainly visible venues. It is also very easy to handwave more subtle aspects of institutionalized cultural racism as 'no big deal' when in fact, the less obvious aspects of racism in American culture are not simply secondary effects of the more obvious racial inequalities, but in fact are the very foundation of racism in America. The overwhelming amount of data and evidence provided is merely what I, as a white person and therefore by nature oblivious (to an extent) to racism in America, could think of off the top of my head in an afternoon.
Racism isn't over just because we elected (and re-elected) a black President - and in fact, claiming it is makes the issue worse because it gives your average white American a reason to stop caring about racial injustice. This is a fight that is far, far from over.
1 Health, United States, 2011. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus11.pdf
2 Income, Expenditures, Poverty, & Wealth, table 697: Money Income of Families - Median Income by Race and Hispanic Origin in Current and Constant (2009) Dollars: 1990 to 2009. US Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0697.pdf
3 Fact Sheet: Own-Rent Analysis, Key Findings. Fannie Mae. http://www.fanniemae.com/resources/file/research/ownrent/pdf/Own-Rent-Analysis-Fact-Sheet-121610.pdf
4 Foreclosures by Race and Ethnicity: The Demographics of a Crisis. Center for Responsible Lending. http://www.responsiblelending.org/mortgage-lending/research-analysis/foreclosures-by-race-and-ethnicity.pdf
5 Early Release of Selected Estimates Based on Data From the January-March 2012 National Health Interview Survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/earlyrelease201209_01.pdf
6 Lead Neurotoxicity and Socioeconomic Status: Conceptual and Analytical Issues. David C. Bellinger. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2574977/
7 Influence of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture on Childhood Obesity: Implications for Prevention and Treatment. Sonia Capro et al. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2571048/
8 Childhood Overweight and Academic Performance: National Study of Kindergartners and First-Graders, Ashlesha Datar, Roland Sturm, Jennifer L. Magnabosco. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2004.9/full
9 Psychoeducational Assessment of Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups: Professional Implications. Santa Gregory, Sandra Lee. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1556-6676.1986.tb01026.x/abstract
10 Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Alan Vanneman, Linda Hamilton, Janet Baldwin Anderson, Taslima Rahman. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/studies/2009455.asp
11 Digest of Education Statistics, Table 116. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by sex and race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1960 through 2010. National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_116.asp
12 Digest of Education Statistics, Table 213. Enrollment rates of 18- to 24-year-olds in degree-granting institutions, by level of institution and sex and race/ethnicity of student: 1967 through 2010. National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_213.asp
13 The Condition of Education. Table A-45-3. Percentage of students seeking a certificate or associate's degree at 2-year institutions who completed a certificate or associate's degree within 150 percent of the normal time required to do so, by race/ethnicity, control of institution, and sex: Starting cohort years 2000 and 2007. National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/tables/table-pgr-3.asp
14 Violent Victimization and Race, 1993-98. Callie Marie Rennison, Ph. D. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=594
15 Crime in the United States 2010: Table 43a, Arrests by Race 2010. Federal Bureau of Investigation. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/table-43/10tbl43a.xls adjusted per capita with data from The 2012 Statistical Abstract, Population: Estimates and Projections by Age, Sex, Race/Ethnicity. United States Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0010.pdf
16 Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin: Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006. William J Sabol, Ph. D., Todd Minton, Paige M Harrison. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/pjim06.pdf
17 The Three Faces of Racial Profiling. American Civil Liberties Union. http://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/racial-profiling
18 Economic News Release. Table A-2. Employment status of the civilian population by race, sex, and age. US Dept of Labor. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t02.htm
19 Military Academy Gender and Racial Disparities. US General Accounting Office. http://www.gao.gov/assets/160/154159.pdf