What Is Racial Inequality? (Origins, Impact, and Ways to Combat)

What Is Racial Inequality?

At its core, racial inequality pertains to the unequal treatment of individuals or groups based on their race. This inequality manifests in various areas, from employment and housing to education and healthcare, often leading to substantial disparities in opportunities and outcomes for people of different races.


  1. A report from 2019 showed that Black Americans earned 61 cents for every dollar earned by their white counterparts.
  2. Hispanic Americans faced an unemployment rate of 4.8%, higher than the 3.7% for whites as of 2020.

What Are the Origins of Racial Inequality in the US?

Racial inequality in the US didn’t emerge in a vacuum. Its origins are:

  • Slavery: Beginning in the 17th century, Africans were forcibly brought to America and enslaved, setting a precedent for racial hierarchy.
  • Jim Crow Laws: After the Civil War, segregation laws, known as Jim Crow Laws, furthered racial divisions, especially in the South.
  • Redlining: In the 20th century, policies such as redlining prevented Black families from obtaining mortgages, hindering their economic advancement.


  1. In 1860, nearly 4 million Africans were enslaved in the US.
  2. Post WWII, around 98% of home loans were given to white individuals due to redlining.

What Are the Types Of Racial Inequity?

Racial inequality isn’t monolithic. The different types include:

  • Institutional Racism: Systems and policies that perpetuate racial disparities. An example would be the racial sentencing disparities in the criminal justice system.
  • Interpersonal Racism: Prejudiced views and discriminatory actions by individuals against someone of a different race.
  • Cultural Racism: The belief that one culture is superior to others, often manifested in stereotyping.
  • Internalized Racism: When individuals from marginalized races believe and internalize negative messages about their own race.

What Are the Effects of Inequality in Society?

Racial inequality doesn’t just affect the individuals facing discrimination. The broader effects include:

  • Economic Disparities: Reduced opportunities lead to lower incomes, less wealth accumulation, and reduced economic mobility.
  • Social Cohesion: Inequality can lead to social unrest and reduced trust among different racial and ethnic groups.
  • Health Disparities: Minority groups, due to inequality, often have poorer health outcomes and shorter lifespans.
  • Limited Access to Quality Education: Schools in racially marginalized areas often receive fewer resources, leading to diminished educational opportunities.


  1. Black Americans have a life expectancy of 3.6 years shorter than white Americans as of 2020.
  2. Schools in predominantly Black neighborhoods receive $23 billion less in funding compared to white schools.

How to Battle Racial Inequality?

Combating racial inequality requires comprehensive efforts:

1. Education: Building Bridges

Unbiased education is a strong counter to racial inequality. Schools should offer curriculums that truthfully present history and celebrate diversity. Encouraging diverse interactions in classrooms can challenge racial biases and nurture mutual respect. Inclusive education fosters empathy and understanding, setting the stage for an equitable society.

2. Legislation: Enacting Change

Effective legislation can directly address racial disparities. By creating and enforcing anti-discrimination laws in areas like employment and housing, we level the playing field. Regularly reviewing these laws ensures their relevance. A society committed to justice must ensure its policies and laws reflect this pledge.

3. Community Engagement: Power at the Roots

Change often starts at the grassroots level. Local initiatives such as mentorship programs, business support, and cultural events can bridge racial divides. Community leaders play a pivotal role in highlighting injustices and guiding youth. Involved communities help create an environment where racial inequality is actively countered.

4. Corporate Responsibility: Championing Diversity

Corporations can play a crucial role in battling racial inequality. Prioritizing diversity in hiring, endorsing fair practices, and supporting equality initiatives make a significant difference. Partnering with minority-owned businesses and advocating for racial justice magnifies their positive impact.


Understanding “what is racial inequality” is crucial in paving the way for a more equitable society. While America has made strides, there’s still much work to be done. Each one of us has a part to play, and together, we can move closer to a society where race is no longer a determinant of one’s opportunities and quality of life.


  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). Employment and Earnings by Race and Ethnicity.
  2. Economic Policy Institute. (2019). Racial Wage Gaps in America.
  3. U.S. Census Bureau. (1860). Slavery Statistics in the United States.
  4. National Community Reinvestment Coalition. (2018). The Impact of Redlining on Home Ownership.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity.
  6. EdBuild. (2019). Disparities in Education Funding.

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