White Americans probably believe that the problem of racism has been virtually eliminated from American life, though there is ample evidence to the contrary. They probably think back to the overt racism of the past, to the time when blacks were relegated to the back of the bus, when minorities were regularly excluded from public institutions, when seeing a black on a major league baseball team was a rare occurrence, when all of white society seemed to believe in the inferiority of blacks and other minorities and when this belief was carried into action on a daily basis as minorities were discriminated against. Today, the majority society sees minorities in a variety of roles from which they were previously excluded and has seen the changes that have been brought about because of the Civil Rights movement. Yet, there are still problems that need to be addressed, and the first step is to admit that they exist. Feagin and Feagin (1986) write that "the old discrimination problems have not been solved" (Feagin and Feagin, 1986, xii).
One specific type of racism that is still prevalent is institutionalized racism. Feagin and Feagin say that this occurs when privilege becomes institutionalized, as happens in colonial societies:
That is, it becomes imbedded in the norms (regulations and informal rules) and roles (social positions and their attendant duties and rights) in a variety of social, economic, and political organizations (Feagin and Feagin, 1986, 12).
"Institution" in this context has several meanings. By one usage, it refers to specific organizations such as businesses, corporations, unions, and political organizations. These organizations are large and legally constituted, with written and unwritten rules governing the conduct of those who fill positions within them.
The concept of institutional racism was first addressed systematically in the 1960s by Charles Hamilton and Stokeley Carmichael. They contra...