His choice of words was categorical. When Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, responded to Joe Biden’s speech to Congress last week, he said: “America is not a racist country.”

But racial disparities exist in the US healthcare system, its criminal justice system, its educational system and its economic system. Those gaps are wide. They are persistent. And, in some cases, racial disparities have grown over time rather than narrowed.

Dataset after dataset, from non-partisan thinktanks to government sources, consistently show these racial disparities. And, unless one believes inherent, biological differences exist between racial groups in the US that would explain their differing success in the country (a belief that would, by the way, be racist), the only possible explanation for all this is structural racism.

These differences exist from the moment that a child is born in the US. One in every seven Black babies has a low birth weight compared with one in every 15 white babies, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 2019.

Four seasons of racism
Four seasons of racism

And the gaps remain. Black, Hispanic and Native American children are more likely to live in poverty than their white, Asian, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander counterparts, as census data from 2020 reveals.

Four seasons of racism

By the time that graduation rolls around, just 74% of Native American or Alaska Native children will complete their public high school education, compared with 79% of Black children and 89% of white children. These statistics come from the US Department of Education, 2017-2018.

Four seasons of racism

In adulthood too, racial discrimination affects just about every aspect of a person’s life. The 2018 American Community Survey (conducted by the Census Bureau) reveals that people of color are most likely to work in low-paid frontline jobs.

Four seasons of racism

And tragically, though not surprisingly, these are the jobs that often have the greatest exposure to the risks of Covid-19. Black people in the US are almost 1.9 times more likely to die from the disease than their white counterparts. For Hispanic or Latino people, the risk is 2.3 times higher, and for Native Americans it’s 2.4 times higher than white people.

Four seasons of racism

Crucially, these statistics can not be treated in isolation. Health is affected by poverty. Poverty affects educational outcomes. Education affects economic security and so it goes on.

Research has shown that Black babies are more likely to be born at a low birth weight because of the physical demands of the low-paid work that many of their mothers are doing. That low-paid work can make it harder to get health insurance too. While just 5% of white people in the US don’t have health insurance, that share doubles for Black people (10%) and doubles again for Hispanic people (20%), according to the census. And of course, a lack of access to healthcare puts an individual at greater risk of dying from Covid-19.

To say that the US is not a racist country is to make a statement that exists outside of reality. It is a fantasy to which many people, especially white Americans, would like to cling.



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