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In which John talks about racism in the United States.

The playlist: If you have suggestions for additions, let me know!


On average, black men's prison sentences are 20% longer than white men's for comparable crimes:

Black people and white people use illegal drugs at similar rates, but black people are far more likely to be arrested for drug use:

African Americans are far more likely to be stopped and searched (although the contraband hit rate is higher among white people) in California:

And in New York (where the data isn't quite as good but appears to be comparable to CA):

Those wrongfully convicted and later exonerated by DNA are disproportionately African American:

Black kids are far more likely to be tried as adults and more likely to receive life sentences:

Black former convicts get fewer employer callbacks than white former convicts:

Emily and Brendan are more hirable than Lakisha and Jamal:

On that front, this study is also interesting: and similar results have been found in the UK: and also in Australia:

Also, this news story has some great analysis:

High schools with mostly African American and Latino students are less likely to offer courses in Algebra II or Chemistry than high schools with mostly white students:

This article explores many of the other ways that increasingly segregated schools have negatively affected African American students:

And this story discusses the fact that African American students are more than twice as likely to be suspended as white students--even in preschool.

The ACP report on racial disparities in U.S. health care:
This (dated) study is also damning: and there's lot of good info here:

More info on increasing disparities in life expectancy between black and white people in the US:

The most recent polls show fewer white people thinking racism is not a problem than the ones I used in this video (although still a huge divide): and and

Racial wealth disparity and the role that inheritance plays:
Related wikipedia article:

The widening of the wealth gap:

Nonvideo recommendations: I really like Roxane Gay's work in Slate and The Butter; this story in the NYT; Chris Rock's recent interview at, and Ashley Ford's commentary and analysis: Also Kiese Laymon's wriitng is great, including

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.
I want to talk about racism today, but I'm already pretty nervous, because, one, I am definitely not an expert and, two, racism is big and complex and nuanced and the Internet -- god bless it -- doesn't really specialize in nuance.
But a bunch of recent surveys have shown that about seventy five percent of white Americans do not think that there is racial bias in the criminal justice system, and a slight majority of white Americans don't think that racism is a significant problem in America. But so far as I can tell, Hank, whether systemic bias against African-Americans exists in the United States is not really a debatable point, so I want to look today at some data.
OK, let's begin with the criminal justice system. So last year, the US Sentencing Commission released a report showing that African American men's prison sentences were, on average, twenty percent longer than white men's prison's sentences when they were convicted of similar crimes. And in fact, in the past decade, the racial gap in sentencing has been widening. (0:51)
Also, black people and white people use illegal drugs at almost identical rates, but black people are three times more likely to be arrested for drug possession. (1:00)
Also, African Americans are far more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, at least in the jurisdictions that keep good records, even though, in many cases, the contraband hit rate -- the chance that an officer will find something actually illegal -- is higher among white people.
By the way, there's links about all this stuff in the dooblydoo.
But there's just so much, Hank, I mean, people convicted of crimes and then later exonerated by DNA evidence are disproportionately black. Black kids are more likely to be tried as adults than white kids and more likely to be sentenced to life in prison, and even after release, black former inmates are less likely to get callbacks from potential employers than white former inmates, regardless of the crime committed. (1:30)
Speaking of which, let's turn to the job market. So one of the things that makes it so hard to isolate race when trying to study it is that so many other factors are at work in systemic injustice, right? Like, there's class and health and wealth, none of which are fully separable from race. But -- OK, so a large 2004 University of Chicago study submitted thousands of resumes to a huge variety of employers, and all the resumes were completely identical -- except for the applicant's name. (1:56)
It could be Emily or Brendan or Lakisha or Jamal, and Lakisha and Jamal got 50% fewer callbacks than Emily or Brendan, despite having literally identical resumes. Hank, I'm pretty sure that's about race. (2:09)
In fact, studies consistently show racial bias in employment and hiring in the US, and also around the world, but I only have four minutes so links in the dooblydoo!
In education, again, the evidence of systemic bias is pretty overwhelming. For instance, in American high schools with mostly black and Latino students, only 74% offer Algebra II as a class; just 66% offer chemistry... the percentages for mostly white schools are much higher. (2:32)
When it comes to healthcare, you could write a book about racial bias, and in fact, people have, but I'll just quote from an American College of Physicians report from 2010:
"Overwhelming evidence shows that racial and ethnic minorities are prone to poorer-quality healthcare than white Americans, even when factors such as insurance status are controlled."
And as the reports point out, by some measures, including life expectancy, which is really the ultimate measure, the disparity has been increasing for decades. (2:53)
Now, Hank, I want to be clear that most of this research establishes correlations, which isn't the same thing as causation. Like, certainly the tremendous economic inequality right now in the United States is a factor in racial disparities. But then of course, race also factors into class and economic status.
Like, for instance, much of the racial wealth disparity in the US is due to inheritance: white people are far more likely to inherit money and land than black people are, and that's due in large part to the fact that for almost all of American history, it was basically impossible for African Americans to accrue wealth.
Now, Hank, I'm obviously just scratching the surface here, but to deny the existence of systemic racism is to deny a huge body of evidence indicating that racial bias affects almost every facet of American life. (3:33)
Hank, the last thing I want to say is that, while I think statistics and data are really important, I also think it's important to listen to the voices of the people who have been affected by racism. Data is cold in a way that humans are not, and to really understand these statistics, and their impact on the real lives of real people, we need to find ways to listen to those people. (3:51)
Hank, I've put together a playlist and some links in the dooblydoo as a start. Hank, I'll see you on Friday.