Institutionalized racism is easier to visualize and discuss than institutionalized sexism, as the former clearly involved structural efforts at segregating two races through official government actions, while the latter, especially during the 20th Century, was characterized more by implicit rather than explicit perceptions of the relative values of the genders. “Institutionalization” of a policy or mindset involves the explicit construction of organizational and/or legal barriers to a particular category of individual. In the United States, those barriers had their origins in the 17th Century through the mid-20th Century laws and practices designed to sublimate one race to another. The mere act of enslaving tens of thousands of kidnapped African men, women and children and incorporating slavery into regional economies, such as occurred throughout the American South, provided for the institutionalization of racism, as the slaves were viewed as representative of an inferior race. No less a figure of immense historical importance than Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, would later write regarding differences between the races:
“To our reproach it must be said, that though for a century and a half we have had under our eyes the races of black and of red men, they have never yet been viewed by us as subjects of natural history. I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind. It is not against experience to suppose, that different species of the same genus, or varieties of the same species, may possess different qualifications.” [Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781]
“Black Codes,” laws established in the nation’s infancy intended to institutionalize racist policies provided one of the first prominent examples of institutionalized racism. The best example of institutionalized racism, however, would have to be the so-called “Jim Crow” laws passed by local and state legislatures across the country that deliberately and effectively subjected blacks to an inferior status through the establishment of the concept of “separate but equal” divisions of the races in everyday life. These laws, passed following the failure of Reconstruction and surviving into the 1960s, made it illegal for blacks to utilize facilities and services reserved for whites while providing the fig leaf of “equal” benefits for blacks. It was the Jim Crow laws that allowed for the establishment of separate drinking fountains and restrooms for whites and blacks, with those reserved for blacks almost always markedly inferior in quality.
If institutionalized racism was the result of explicit efforts on the part of legislatures to sublimate the rights of blacks to those of whites, institutionalized sexism, which ran parallel to that of racism, was less well-defined, and would eventually produce the image, still used today, of a “glass ceiling” unofficially limiting the heights to which women could advance within an organization, particularly in the world of business. Women, of course, were forced to agitate for centuries for rights equal to those enjoyed by men. Laws passed early in the nation’s history intended to marginalize the role of women in society – and which also served to discriminate against blacks and other minorities – required that certain conditions be met before one could be eligible to vote in elections, for example, that one must be a property owner to be eligible to vote, a condition that limited the pool of eligible voters to white males. It wasn’t until ratification in 1920 of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that women were explicitly guaranteed the right to vote. Consequently, institutionalized sexism was effectively established through those early restrictions on the right to vote to categories of human beings that excluded almost all women.
Institutionalized racism and institutionalized sexism is discrimination by political or social organizations (government facilities, banks, schools, etc.).
An example of institutional racism is the Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court case in 1896.This case kept segregation in public areas, meaning African Americans had separate areas (bathrooms, water fountains, etc.) from non-African Americans. They claimed it was "separate but equal".
An example of institutional sexism is before 1920, women were not allowed to vote. Only males were allowed to vote for the countries leaders. Institutional sexism still occurs today, as well as racism in some cases. Studies show women still get paid less than men for the same job.