To understand the persistence of racial disparities across multiple domains (e.g., residential location, schooling, employment, health, housing, credit, and justice) and to develop effective remedies, we must recognize that these domains are reciprocally related and comprise an integrated system. The limited long-run success of government social policies to advance racial justice is due in part to the ad hoc nature of policy responses to various forms of racial discrimination. Drawing on a systems perspective, I show that race discrimination is a system whose emergent properties reinforce the effects of their components. The emergent property of a system of race-linked disparities is discrimination—a meta-level phenomenon that shapes our culture, cognitions, and institutions, thereby distorting whether and how we perceive and make sense of racial disparities. Viewing within-domain disparities as part of a discrimination system requires better-specified analytic models. While the existence of an emergent system of discrimination increases the difficulty of eliminating racial disparities, a systems perspective points to strategies to attack that system. These include identifying and intervening at leverage points, implementing interventions to operate simultaneously across subsystems, isolating subsystems from the larger discrimination system, and directly challenging the processes through which emergent discrimination strengthens within-subsystem disparities.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error