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Structural Racism: What is it?


Representative Kim Coleman is sponsoring a bill, HB 93 in the Utah State legislature which would allow a minority population of a county to withdraw from, and create a new county without consent of the entire county. This is a sad and discriminatory reaction to the election for the first-time of a majority Native American commission in San Juan County, Utah. The Native American majority has been disenfranchised for more than a century. Maps have erased these communities in the past, and now that they are visible, the northern communities in the county that are predominantly white are considering forming a new government. HB 93 would harm everyone in San Juan County, but most especially the Native Americans who live in the southern half of the county.

Structural racism refers to “[a] system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequality.”1 They present structural barriers that stand in the way of racial groups securing quality housing, healthcare, employment, and education. In San Juan County, Utah, these barriers to equality persist and have a variety of root causes. Awareness is the first step in trying to solve these important challenges. While major Supreme court cases have provided some guidance in addressing the most egregious inequalities in the United States over the past 40 years, such as in voting rights and education, structural racism still exists in San Juan County and it must be addressed.

Can maps be racist? Yes, and in regards to San Juan County, they often are because they fail to reflect Native American communities.