Letter: What is structural racism?

To the editor:

“Iris Marion Young’s ‘birdcage’ metaphor explains it this way:If one thinks about racism by examining only one wire of the cage, or one form of disadvantage, it is difficult to understand how and why the bird can’t just go around. Only a large number of wires arranged in a specific way, and connected with one another, serve to enclose the bird and ensure it cannot escape. Any given wire of the cage may or may not be specifically developed for the purpose of trapping the bird, yet it still operates (together with other wires) to restrict its freedom.” – Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

Discriminatory housing practices, redlining neighborhoods, underfunded education, lack of access to healthcare, racial profiling, police brutality and mass incarceration are just a few examples of cage wires that all together contribute to structural racism. Whether or not we realize it, white society has been behaving as if black lives don’t matter since this country was formed. It’s no wonder that people of color and their allies are rising up again to demand that the wires of the cage be removed because Black Lives Matter!

White people need to listen to people of color and do our own learning, examine our own hidden biases and move forward in support of antiracist policy changes. When justice and equality are achieved, we will be closer to becoming the country we have always professed to be. A nation where EVERYONE truly has the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Helpful resources:


Stamped from the Beginning by Ibrahm X. Kendi

How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibrahm X. Kendi

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Olou

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Netflix documentary – When They See Us

Netflix documentary – 13th

Sylvia Luetmer

Alexandria, MN


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