7 Startling Facts about Racial and Minority Discrimination | Net Impact

7 Startling Facts about Racial and Minority Discrimination

7 Startling Facts about Racial and Minority Discrimination | Net Impact

Racial equity has been a problem in the United States since the nation first built its economy on the basis of slave labor. It’s an ugly truth, and conversations about the legacy of slavery, racism, Jim Crow and the New Deal are difficult and emotional. Conversations about racial equity have been largely sidelined for hundreds of years, despite the best intentions of activists and organizations who recognize racism and want to solve it. But something about the Black Lives Matter protests and events over the spring and summer of 2020 finally seems to have struck a chord with more people who are willing to have that conversation about racism. It’s one that is long overdue, and it is important to create a framework for that discussion.

Definitions: Let's get them straight

Before one can discuss racial equity, it is important to have some definitions in place. Words like equityraceminority and discrimination can set off a powder keg of emotion, but not everyone is defining those things in the same way. And the fact that these words have multiple definitions points to the complexity of the issue.

Racial equity

The Center for Assessment and Policy Development (CAPD) is an organization whose mission is to help community groups, organizations, governments and foundations craft and execute thoughtful responses to pressing social issues. CAPD defines racial equity as “the condition that would be achieved if one's racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares.” Another organization, the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI), defines racial equity more broadly, examining the term as both an outcome and a process of balancing the social system so that people are not penalized for the color of their skin and have an equal opportunity to succeed.


Scientists define race as a social construct, rather than a biological fact. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, race designations and the way that racial categorizations have been enforced have changed over time. For example, the US Census has reintroduced categorizations for nonwhite people many times throughout history, going so far as to instate the "one-drop rule" in 1930, where a person of both black and white ancestry was to be categorized as black, "no matter how small the percentage" of "black blood" was present.


In the United States, people often assume that the word minority refers to the literal sense of the word — the smallest number of two groups that form a whole. And at the beginning of the 20th century, when the United States was 87% white, the term minority referred simply to the portion of the population that was not white, which consisted primarily of black Americans in the rural south in the early part of the 20th century. The term evolved over time to include a more diverse population of Hispanics, Asians and American Indians. But according to the Population Reference Bureau, as populations grow and evolve, the very term minority will be different by the middle of the 21st century.


Discrimination is defined as unequal treatment of various groups based on social class, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability or some other category. Often lost in the discussion is the fact that discrimination is a crimeTitle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that it is “illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The law further requires that employers reasonably accommodate applicants' and employees' sincerely held religious practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.”

Racial equity by the numbers

No matter how much people might want to live in a color-blind society, racism continues to be an impediment for people of color who want an equal opportunity to succeed.

1. The dichotomy of race

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center on racial views in America found that black Americans were more likely to say that their race kept them from getting ahead, while more white Americans said that their race helped them get ahead. The same study showed that the majorities of both black and white Americans believe that the police and criminal justice system treat black people more unfairly than white people, and that the majority of black, Hispanic, and Asian people say that they have experienced racism or discrimination because of their ethnicity.

2. Segregation is still a problem

Statistics illustrate how racial equity plays out in the United States and how it touches virtually every part of American life. In early 2020, the National Center for Education Statistics’ National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducted a comprehensive study of education performance in the United States.

The study found that fewer than 13% of white students attend a school where a majority of students are students of color. In contrast, almost 70% of black students attend such schools. The study also found that schools are segregated economically: Fewer than 32% of white students attend a high-poverty school, while the number for black students is more than 72%. Most importantly, the study found that segregated schools with high poverty rates lead to poor performance for black students, placing them at a disadvantage before they even have the opportunity to graduate from high school.

3. Students of color are disciplined more harshly in US schools

The US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights collected data from a single school year for their School Climate and Safety study. They found that while black students only make up a total of 15% of students enrolled in US schools, they made up more than a third of students who were suspended and expelled. The Department concluded that the disparity was not due to more frequent or more serious behavior by students of color.

4. People of color are more likely to be in prison

Black Americans remain more likely to be in prison compared to their white or Hispanic counterparts, even though the numbers have declined in recent years. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that in 2018, black adults, who make up only 12% of the overall US adult population, make up 33% of the adult prison population in this country. At the same time, white adults, who make up more than 60% of the population, make up just 30% of the prison population. Hispanics, who account for 16% of the overall adult population, make up 23% of prison inmates.

5. Police violence is a leading cause of death for young men of color in the United States

Another article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that over the course of their lifetimes, one out of every 1,000 black men will be killed by police. The study also shows that police encounters that result in violence have long-lasting and serious effects on health, neighborhoods, politics and opportunities. Violent police killings of people of color and the racial inequities inherent in them were the impetus of multiple protests in the summer of 2020. They are now the subject of ongoing discussion in the United States about how to make systemic changes that will address racism.

6. Black women in the United States have poorer maternal health outcomes

A recent study by the National Partnership for Women and Families found that black women are more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women, and are more likely to experience a preventable death in childbirth, even if they have similar educational backgrounds and income levels. This is due in part to the fact that black women are more likely to face challenges when they try to obtain quality healthcare, and often face racial discrimination. That same study found that black women are less likely than white women to be insured, less likely to access prenatal care, and they face far greater financial barriers than white women do that keep them from accessing care when they need it.

7. Race is still a factor in the labor market

In 2019 the Economic Policy Institute found that black workers at almost every education level are twice as likely as white workers to be unemployed, and that black workers are also more likely than their white counterparts to be underemployed--that is, employed in a job that is consistent with their level of education. The study concluded that racial discrimination continues to be a significant problem in the US labor market--a problem that has likely been exacerbated by the pandemic.

What can you do?

You can make a difference at the local, state and national level by staying educated and speaking up when you see racism and racial inequity problems. Learn more about how you can get involved with racial equity with Net Impact and our program and events throughout the year.