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Celebrating Black History Month

We’re celebrating Black History Month! In partnership with faculty members, McDaniel College is spotlighting some disparities that exist in Black communities. Black communities face a variety of challenges not faced by other communities. Check out the facts below. How many did you know?

  • 1 in 4 Baltimore residents live in an area with limited access to healthy food options.
  • Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.
  • 1930s redlining practices still affect black communities today (92 years later).
  • Black men receive sentences that are 19.1% longer than white men convicted for the same crime.

Black History Month programming and activities are being coordinated by various offices across campus, including the Office of Student Engagement, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Office of Communications and Marketing, Human Resources, and the President’s Office.

ODEI Office

Did you know?

Week 4: Structural Racism

It is said by many that the term “institutional racism” was first coined in the 1960s by civil rights activist Kwame Ture (whose original name was Stokely Carmichael). Ture is also known for creating the slogan “black power.” He defined institutional racism in his book “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation,” co-authored with Charles V. Hamilton in 1967, as “the collective failure of institutions to provide appropriate and professional services to people because of their color, culture, or ethnicity.”

Despite the recognition of institutional racism 55 years ago, it remains challenging to identify because racism is not always conscious, explicit, or readily visible. After all, some forms of racism are entrenched in our society, policies, rules, and regulations. An example of institutional, or systemic, racism can be found in sentencing for the possession of cocaine versus the possession of crack. 

“From a chemical standpoint, there is no difference between powder cocaine and crack. Possession of cocaine leads to a much lighter prison sentence compared to the penalties for possession of crack. Cocaine was strongly associated with white people, while crack was more common in Black communities. The difference between the two is a prime example of the ways that systemic racism creeps into laws and causes harm to Black Americans specifically.” 

Fair Fight Initiative

However, this nation has made some notable advances in knocking down the walls of systemic racism by passing the Proclamation of Independence, eliminating Jim Crow laws, “separate but equal” schools, and prohibitions on voting or owning land. But nonetheless, when looking at the data, one can see the subtle but noticeable signs of institutional racism. For example, unemployment rates are generally higher for African Americans than for white people. The gap between African American homeownership and white homeownership continues to widen, and there are often additional hurdles to owning a home that African Americans must face. And lastly, African Americans are unfairly targeted and mistreated within the criminal justice system compared to white people. Other examples of continuing structural racism include residential segregation, unfair lending practices, schools’ dependence on local property taxes, and voter suppression policies.

Systemic racism affects every area of life in the US. From incarceration rates to predatory loans, and trying to solve these problems requires changes in major parts of our system. Here's a closer look at what systemic racism is, and how we can solve it.

Systemic racism cannot be solved with short-term resolutions, but instead needs long-term changes to our laws, policies, and practices. No single approach will solve systemic racism, but rather all sectors of our society will need to reinforce actions to rid systemic racism mutually. On March 21, 2021, the White House released a statement outlining the steps the U.S. government is taking to combat systemic racism, which include:

  • Advancing racial equity in the federal government.
  • Condemning and combating racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
  • Assessing domestic violent extremism.
  • Creating a chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Department of State.
  • Incorporating racial justice into U.S. foreign policy goals.
  • Supporting historically marginalized populations around the world.
  • Calling for action at the UN Human Rights Council and nominating a U.S. representative to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Combating systemic racism requires aggressive action. As stated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1969 essay titled “A Testament of Hope,” “Justice for black people will not flow into this society merely from court decisions nor from fountains of political oratory … White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society.”

We're not going to rest until we protect the foundation of our democracy, the sacred right to vote as we celebrate Black History Month. Let's carry forward the work of our lives together to dismantle systemic racism in every part of our society - to fight for dignity and to fulfill America's promise for everyone.

President Joe Biden

What is Systemic Racism?

Is systemic racism really a thing? Yes -- and Race Forward has produced a video series to show how racism shows up in our lives across institutions and society in many ways: Drug Arrests, Housing Discrimination, Immigration, Incarceration, Infant Mortality, Wealth Gap, Employment, Government Surveillance.

What Is Systemic Racism? Wealth Gap

Did you know that in 2010 Black Americans made up 13% of the population but had only 2.7% of the country's wealth?

What Is Systemic Racism? Employment

Did you know that no matter what else is going on in America, year in and year out for the last 60 years, Black unemployment is always about twice as high as white unemployment?

What is systemic racism? Housing Discrimination

What would you call it if lifetimes of legal segregation followed by decades of pervasive racist housing policies still, to this day, disadvantage Black people in almost every aspect of life?

What is systemic racism? Government Surveillance

Did you know the government watches some of us a lot more than others depending on where we come from?

What is systemic racism? Incarceration

Did you know that back in the '80s there were less than half a million people in the US prison system, but now, thanks to the war on drugs, there are more than 2 million?

What is systemic racism? Drug Arrests

Did you know that over 40% of drug arrests are not for selling any drugs but just for possession of marijuana?

Richard Smith

Information & Resources provided by: Richard M. Smith Associate Provost for Equity & Belonging

As the Associate Provost for Equity & Belonging, Richard M. Smith provides vision and leadership to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He also works in collaboration with the provost to co-lead the college’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) administrative committee and guides the Bias Education Response Support Team (BERST). Born and raised in Baltimore, Smith attended Temple University after graduating from McDaniel, where he earned both his master’s degree and Ph.D. His teaching and research has been focused on race and racism in the United States, African American culture, race and justice, and racism and religion.

Did you know?

Week 3: Redlining Did you know? 1930s redlining practices still affect black communities today (92 years later).


Red lines are not only used in Microsoft Word to track changes. “Redlining” was once a discriminatory practice used to deny Black applicants money, a mortgage, or a line of credit in certain neighborhoods. Approximately 90 years ago, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation created “Residential Security” maps of American cities, sorting neighborhoods based on the residents ethnicity, race, economic class, and employment status. The maps were color coded:


Those same maps were then used by professionals working in real estate (bankers, loan officers, appraisers, real estate professionals, etc.) to locate neighborhoods considered high risk or "hazardous" and identify them with a red outline. Often, Black families who were residents in these neighborhoods were denied access to capital, insurance, and financial assistance loans simply because of where they lived.

For generations, homeownership has been seen as one of the most successful ways to accumulate wealth. However, discriminatory policies like redlining have created barriers for Black families and continue to increase the wealth gap between Black and white families. Consequently, redlining practices have kept Black families in low-income neighborhoods by denying them opportunities to purchase homes in other locations or within the redlined neighborhoods, and sometimes their own homes. Redlining also kept those in redlined areas from improving their neighborhoods because their applications for business loans were often denied.

Redlining is now illegal because of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, but the practice has resulted in the homeownership gap between Black families and white families today. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national homeownership rate for Black families is 44%, versus 73.7% for white families. Additionally, according to a study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, 74% of the neighborhoods that were redlined in the 1930s are low-to-moderate income neighborhoods today, and 64% are also majority minority neighborhoods. A Redfin study found that over the last 40 years a typical homeowner in a previously redlined neighborhood gained 52% less in property value increase than a typical homeowner in a neighborhood that was not historically redlined.

Because of redlining and other discriminatory practices, Black residents' financial growth through real estate was stifled when homeownership was booming. During the 1950s and 1960s, homeownership rates increased from 30% to 60%, with 98% of the loans backed by the government going to white applicants between 1934 and 1968. During those 34 years, economic growth in the U.S. was thriving, but many people of color were still denied the opportunity for homeownership.

Jim Kunz

Information & Resources provided by: Jim Kunz

My research interests have centered on the determinants of employment and earnings. I have co-authored several articles that examine the impact of childhood background and psychosocial factors on adult earnings, as well as the impact of public programs, such as welfare and child support, on economic well-being. More recently, my research has been in the area of financial social work – examining the relationship between psychosocial well-being and financial capability – and homelessness, especially among unaccompanied minors.

Did you know?

Week 2: Healthcare Disparities Did you know? Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.


Federal health initiative Healthy People 2020 states that a health disparity “adversely affects groups of people who have systematically experienced greater obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group.” This has been especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020.

During the pandemic, the Black community has been disproportionately affected. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that some BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) populations experience hospitalization after COVID-19 infection at a rate more than 3x higher than white populations. While the cause for this disparity is multifactorial, a leading factor is the inherent mistrust of clinicians that exists in Black communities today.

This mistrust is in response to generations of targeted, racist actions and policies that have negatively impacted BIPOC communities. For example, in 1932 the U.S. Public Health Service began conducting the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which hundreds of Black men were intentionally infected with syphilis, without their consent, and then misled to believe they were receiving treatment. In reality, the researchers allowed them and their families to suffer symptoms unchecked for the 40-year-long study, even with common treatments available. In another example, during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s, psychiatrists used the concept of schizophrenia to portray Black activists as violent, hostile, and paranoid because they threatened the racist status quo.

These interactions, and many others, have developed a community that is skeptical of the medical system regardless of their medical vulnerabilities. This medical skepticism and lack of trust in the medical community have resulted in the Black community disproportionately experiencing COVID-19.

The disparities of health care found amongst African Americans were highlighted in August 1985 by the then-secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Margaret Heckler, when she published The Heckler Report. This report drew attention to the fact that African Americans and other minorities were still facing significant challenges in health care and experiencing low life expectancy rates. Following the report, the Office of Minority Health (OMH) was created to “improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities.” Despite best efforts, the disparity continues to exist.

Overall, the black community is generally at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, according to the Office of Minority Health. There is no one solution or a clear consensus on what can or should be done to address these health disparities that the black community is currently facing. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services produced the National Health Care Disparities report which identified four policy areas for addressing racial and ethnic health care disparities:

  • Raising public and provider awareness of racial/ethnic disparities in care;
  • Expanding health insurance coverage;
  • Improving the capacity and number of providers in underserved communities; and
  • Increasing the knowledge base on causes and interventions to reduce disparities.

Additional Information & Resources

Linda Semu

--Information and resources provided by: Linda Semu

As a Comparative International Sociologist, my research, publication and teaching focuses on the intersection of gender; international development; social change; health; race; immigration; family; youth, orphans and vulnerable children. My scholarship intersects social justice and advocacy: I have conducted research, training and consultancy work on Malawi for various government agencies and non-governmental organizations including the World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, Oxfam, GTZ; and a Community Needs Assessment (2016) for West Baltimore’s Set the Captives Free Outreach Center. I am also Chair of the Board of the Malawi Washington Foundation (MWF), a 501(C)3 organization that I and other Malawian women in the Washington DC metropolitan area founded in 2009.

Did you know?

Week 1: Food Insecurity Did you know? 1 in 4 Baltimore Residents Live in an area with limited access to healthy food options.


The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a “household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” This includes lack of access to food, eating foods high in calories and carbohydrates, consuming foods past an expiration date, and buying low-priced and unhealthy foods. While this crisis is not race specific, the Black community appears to face the most challenges.

Historically, Black and white households tend to have food insecurity rates that move together, going up during recessions and decreasing as the economy improves. However, the Black community consistently faces hunger at higher rates than white communities due to social, economic, and environmental challenges. An analysis examining trends in food insecurity from 2001 to 2016 found that food insecurity rates for both non-Hispanic black and Hispanic households were at least twice that of non-Hispanic white households. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of those impacted by food insecurity in Maryland nearly doubled to more than one million. A study conducted by The National Food Access and COVID research Team (NFACT) found that 41% of Marylanders who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color experienced food insecurity during the first four months of the pandemic. Additionally, a recent study by Webb Hooper found that Black and Hispanic populations bore a disproportionately higher burden of COVID-19 outcomes in the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the most common, yet complex, effects of food insecurity include:

  • Serious health complications, especially when people facing hunger are forced to choose between spending money on food and medicine or medical care;
  • Damage to a child’s ability to learn and grow;
  • Difficult financial decisions for seniors — often living on fixed incomes — such as choosing between paying for food and critical healthcare.

For more information about food insecurity, visit Feeding America. There you can also explore an interactive map to learn more about hunger in your community.