systemic racism


: the oppression of a racial group to the advantage of another as perpetuated by inequity within interconnected systems (such as political, economic, and social systems)
especially : white supremacy sense 2
Systemic racism is a machine that runs whether we pull the levers or not, and by just letting it be, we are responsible for what it produces. We have to actually dismantle the machine if we want to make change. Ijeoma Oluo
systemic racism is far more than a matter of racial prejudice and individual bigotry. It is a material, social, and ideological reality that is well-imbedded in major U.S. institutions. Joe R. Feagin
Arguably, the seminal civil rights issue of our time is the systemic racism permeating the criminal "justice" system. The Black Lives Matter movement has brought to national attention the fact that people of color are disproportionately targeted by police stops, arrests, and police violence. Leah Penniman
Our nation faces a fork in the road and a decision to either continue down the same path of systemic racism or to confront our past honestly. Bree Newsome
Doing away with the Senate filibuster would not, of course, mean the end of systemic racism. But it would make anti-racist policies far easier to pass than they are today, and it would help dismantle both the legacy and machinery of Jim Crow. David Litt
Many Black homeowners have reported that their homes are being valued at far less—sometimes $500,000 less—when appraisers know that the homeowners are Black. This means untold millions have disappeared from the Black community. This is systemic racism at work … Touré
systemically racist adjective
The film also shows how systemically racist rules like redlining continue to benefit one set of descendants while slowly destroying another. Odie Henderson

Examples of systemic racism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In the meantime, Black Californians search for light under systemic racism’s long shadow. Justin Phillips, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Oct. 2021 Everyone, even spectators, plays a role in systemic racism’s theater of cruelty. Judy Berman, Time, 13 May 2021 After learning from and witnessing systemic racism’s effects in tech, Cook took an aggressive, well-rounded approach to tackle equity in the STEM space. Lynn Rosenthal, Rolling Stone, 26 Feb. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'systemic racism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1968, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of systemic racism was in 1968

Dictionary Entries Near systemic racism

Cite this Entry

“Systemic racism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!