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There is racism and there is institutionsed racism. I've heard and read of both terms being used. The former most often in speech; and the latter more in in writing.

According to a paper in the Kentucky Law Journal by William Wiecek:

I am collaborating with a sociologist, Dr. Judy Hamilton, on a study that is meant to introduce the subject to lawyers and judges. We hope that the marriage of her work as a sociologist and my work as a constitutional lawyer will sensitise the legal community to the existence and impact of a social reality that most lawyers ignore. We thought that a conference that brought persons from multiple fields outside the law could increase awareness of structural racism amongst lawyers ...

Obviously there is the earlier work in during the civil rights movement that uncovered a whole host of problems to do with 'literacy' tests in the US with regards to voting. And also the accusation that mass incarceration is the New Jim Crow.

Q. What is the legal understanding of the either structural/institutional racism?

Jurisdiction: Either Britain or the USA.

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    Isn't that subjective? Many people view affirmative action as institutional racism. – vsz Nov 28 '20 at 15:28
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    Institutional racism is not a legal term; it's political and used as a linguistic distinction. – BlueDogRanch Nov 28 '20 at 16:24
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    You're asking about what certain political movements are referring to when they talk about "institutional racism", right? The law doesn't refer to it at all. – user6726 Nov 28 '20 at 16:47
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    "The West" isn't a single jurisdiction. Things like racism and prohibitions of discrimination go into constitutional law and there is a large variety of constitutions. – o.m. Nov 28 '20 at 16:49
  • @BlueDogRanch That's short but enough to be an answer. – Studoku Nov 28 '20 at 21:01
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In the , it is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of race in the provision of employment, in the financing, sale, or rental of housing, public transport (such as trains or buses) and in providing access to "public accommodations" such as restaurants, theaters, and public buildings such as city halls, museams, adn police stations. It is also unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race in several other situations, such as jury service, law enforcement actions, and official governmental business. There are similar prohibitions of discrimination on the basis of color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age. Some states or localities add additional classes that are protected against discrimination and some add additional situations where protection id available.

Discrimination on the basis of race is prohibited regardless of whether the motive is individual or institutional racism. From a legal standpoint, there is no difference. However, if institutional racism is know to exist in a particular setting, or can be proved to exist, that might be evidence which will help to prove that a particular action was racial discrimination.

Note that it is not illegal in the US to discriminate on the basis of race where no anti-discrimination law applies, nor to discriminate against people on a basis that is not a protected class (for example against left-handed people). Such actions may incur public disfavor, but not legal redress.

So (in the US at least) there really is no "legal understanding" of institutional racism or indeed of racism in any form. There is only the legal concept of unlawful discrimination on the basis of race. Lawyers (including prosecutors and Judges) and law-enforcement people may understand that institutional racism exists and may take it into account in responding to particular situations. But this is not a matter of law as such.

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