History of Racism in the United States:
A Primer & Conversation
Stephen Menendian is the Assistant Director and Director of Research at the Othering & Belonging Institute, and he oversees many of the Institute’s research initiatives and ongoing projects. In particular, Stephen leads the Inclusiveness Index initiative, an assessment of global inclusivity, fair housing policy and  opportunity with the state of California, and a recent investigation on the extent and harmful effects of racial residential segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Stephen’s primary areas of expertise are structural racism, fair housing, affirmative action and educational equity, and civil rights law, but his research focuses on the causes and consequences of inter-group inequality (“othering”), and the design of effective equity interventions under prevailing interpretations of law.
Stephen began his presentation by focusing on racial inequality and the racial disparities in both policing and COVID-19 pandemic.  He then continued with examples of racial disparities (e.g., life expectancies, infant mortality, GED/high school diploma/college graduation, unemployment, poverty rate, rate of incarnation).  Stephen then explained that there are three theories regarding Racial Inequality:
  • Difference between racial groups (e.g., cultural, biological, genetic)
  • Discrimination (e.g., public and/or private, past and/or present)
  • Systems and Structures
After sharing examples regarding the historical trends of White’s attitudes racial principles, which trend to less discrimination, Stephen moved into and explained the Models of Racism that included Individual/Interpersonal Racism, Institutional Racism, and Structural/Systems Racism.   He defined Structural Racialization as
  • A claim that opportunity structures, which shape life chances and well-being, are racialized, meaning that they produce and reinforce racial advantages and disadvantages.
  • These structures operate without respect to individual choices or discriminatory intent.
This definition led into a discussion of how geography (e.g., local jurisdiction, neighborhood, metropolitan area in which a person is born along with parental and personal characteristics) impacts the upward economic mobility and success of an individual.  Stephen compared the economic mobility by race, which demonstrated that an African American child born into the lowest economic quintile has only a 3% chance of moving into the highest quintile compared 16% chance for a White child.  His point was that place (geography) is the key to opportunity structure and upward economic mobility.
One conclusion from the research that Stephen has done is that structural racism is not just a residue of past discriminatory practices.  In some respects, Structural Racism becomes more pronounced as we move forward in time, not less.
Inclusiveness Index - an annual publication that identifies and captures the degree of group-based inclusion and marginality experienced across the world and within the United States.
Opportunity Mapping Project - the opportunity mapping methodology uses geospatial analyses and techniques to illuminate the ways in which structures and institutions promote or restrict access to opportunity based on their "situatedness."  Click on the map and to see the opportunity levels in Castro Valley and surrounding areas.
Effects of Racial Segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area – Given the seriousness of the problem of racial segregation as a cause of racial inequality and the complexities in understanding the nature of this problem, the Institute launched a series of briefs that will attempt to illuminate these patterns and demystify the reality of segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area. Check out the interactive segregation map of the Bay Area in the third brief.
The Club is not able to share Stephen’s slide deck or post the video of the presentation.