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Systemic Racism: What Research Shows the Scale of Its Impact?

We spoke to five researchers to demonstrate how racial discrimination is embedded in the structures and processes of US society


18th November 2020

By Layal Liverpool

The explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement into mainstream consciousness has brought the spread of systemic racism and anti-Black bias into focus. This is not limited to individual actions and settings. It is racism that, as a normal practice, is deeply embedded in the systems, structures and institutions that sustain society. And while it may remain invisible to some, a growing body of research shows that systemic racism is extremely detrimental to people around the world.

In the United States, where the latest wave of anti-racism protests began, blacks are far more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for the same crimes than whites. However, the problems in the US and other countries go well beyond law enforcement. We know that racism is also anchored in housing, education, employment and health systems. For example, in the US, UK and elsewhere, the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on black and ethnic minority (BAME) people has highlighted the impact of social inequalities on health and susceptibility to disease.

Still, researchers are working to understand how societies hold back and damage BAME communities, conduct experiments, and analyze existing data with new eyes to uncover any manifestations of systemic racism. We spoke to five American scientists who investigate hidden discrimination in various aspects of everyday life, from children’s academic development to health and illness in adulthood and interaction with technology.

Educational inequality

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Daphne Henry is a developmental and educational psychologist at Boston College, Massachusetts

In the US, black children get compared to …