We define triggers as social and economic systems that serve as inputs into our feedback loops. They are the existing problems in our society that ‘trigger’ the myriad of interconnected problems we have detailed in the sections below.
Institutional Racism: Solid Ground defines Institutional Racism as “the systematic distribution of resources, power and opportunity in our society to the benefit of people who are White and the exclusion of People of Color.” This definition of racism looks beyond individual discriminatory views and actions to understand how a racial hierarchy is built into and maintained by policy, institutions, and cultural “norms.” Institutional racism shows up as racial disparities in wealth, health, education, employment, housing, and government representation and participation, among other things. Institutional racism comes in many forms, from formal policies such as redlining and funding public schools by property tax, to some less formal, such as absense of grocery stores in low-income Communites of Color and the common practive of only publishing government and health information in English.
Racial Wealth Divide: The Center for American Progress traces the wealth divide back to the roots of the US economy when economic policies were built to exploit People of Color by enabling wage and benefit disparities and discrimination. Jim Crow laws and South Carolina’s “Black Codes” restricted Black people from finding non-servitude work and denied companies from providing relocation benefits. The New Deal strengthened worker’s rights and pay after the Great Depression, but excluded many domestic, agricultural and service-based jobs, therefore denying new protections and benefits to many People of Color. Today, the agricultural industry is legally allowed to employ children as young as 12, and many other worker’s rights do not extend to those in domestic, service and agricultural industries--many of whom are Black or Latinx. This historic income disparity has a direct connection to the racial wealth divide. According to the Racial Wealth Divide report, the average Black and Latinx family has 41 and 22 times less wealth than the average White family, respectively. Additionally, Families of Color are more likely to have higher debts than White families. While White families see their wealth increase annually, Black families experience wealth decline with each passing year. Economic decisions and policies often favor Whites, contributing to the growing wealth divide and inequitable economic system. This has concentrated the majority of the US’s wealth at the top, with Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet holding more wealth than 50% of US families. A family’s job opportunities determine their income and therefore their wealth, impacting where they can live and what assets they can own. This directly determines their exposure to pollution and harmful chemicals, impacting their health and creating financial strain from medical bills. Lower wealth decreases a family’s resiliency to economic downturns and financial insecurities.
Urban Planning & Redlining: Housing discrimination in the US is complex and embedded in a long history of racist policies dating back to slavery. In the 1930s, amidst the Great Depression and high foreclosure rates, the federal government created the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) to assist people in refinancing their home loans. HOLC created city maps showing undesirable neighborhoods unfit for investment and public services. Race played a critical role in determining which areas were risky for investment, as Black and immigrant neighborhoods were typically rated as “hazardous,” and outlined in red. Black Americans were often denied federally backed mortgage loans and when they were approved, they could only buy homes in the designated redlined areas. During this time, White families were offered low-interest loans to move to newly developed suburbs (known as “white flight”) while Black families were excluded from this process. Redlining affects historic and present-day zoning, which is the urban planning process that determines what kinds of structures are able to be built in certain areas. Due to redlining and other local, state, and federal policies, industrial sites and other polluting facilities tend to be concentrated in minority communities, while affluent communities tend to have the economic and political power to limit industrial construction, as well as multi-family homes. A long history of economic and housing disenfranchisement, causes Black and Latinx families to be disproportionately vulnerable to involuntary displacement.