Systemic racism needs to be systemic, otherwise it’s a meaningless concept

detroit
Detriot 1967

Words ought to have meaning. So what is the meaning of the word systemic?

It’s a relatively new word and is said to have entered the language in the early 1800s. The dictionary definition is basically that it describes something that happens or exists throughout a whole system.

Closely associated with systemic is systematic, a word which says that some act was intentional or implemented according to plan.

Both words have been bandied about in recent weeks as protesters in the West have taken to the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s death while being arrested in Minneapolis.

That death and others of late are used as examples of systemic racism which is practiced systematically against persons of color.

It has also led to politicians claiming that our countries systemically racist.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have read many attempts to define precisely what is meant of systemic racism.

I have read heart wrenching accounts of people encountering racism in their lives. They are disheartening and offensive to all right thinking people.

While there is little doubt that people of color have encountered racism in their lives, do these encounters constitute systemic racism?

After all, a good many of the people who decry systemic racism have gone on to have successful careers in business and politics and to amass great wealth.

If racism is indeed systemic, how is that possible? Surely, if it is both systemic and systematic, people of color could never succeed. The system would stop them, no?

It is at this point that the argument then becomes one of noting that systemic racism is actually an issue of percentages and probabilities.

Race critics argue that blacks, brown or indigenous people show up disproportionately in crime statistics.

Or they argue that in business there should be more people of color represented in management or on boards of directors.

In other words, if a particular minority comprises, say, 14 per cent of the population, they should be 14 per cent of all criminals, 14 per cent of all politicians, 14 per cent of all entertainers, 14 per cent of all heads of companies, etc.

So the charge of systemic racism rests on the inequality of outcomes.

For conservatives of any color, that argument is specious in the extreme, because it is simplistic and inverts the premise.

What is there in the system that prevents anyone from advancing? Are there laws holding any person back? Are there prohibitions denying them opportunity?

No one denies racism exists. It does. There are individuals who are racists. There are individuals in power who are racists.

In other words, what is in the system that is racist?

We have a raft of laws, after all, designed to protect people of color against racism, to force people and institutions alike to answer charges of racism.

If racism was systemic, if the United States, Canada and other countries in the West were truly racist to their cores, would such laws even exist?

The truly sad thing about these claims of systemic racism is that they prevent us from holding politicians accountable for the policies that have destroyed jobs, raised housing prices, food prices and thwarted upward mobility for all people regardless of color.

Why have we de-industrialized?

Why have we shipped so many jobs overseas?

Why has China been allowed to grow wealthy at the expense of workers in the West?

Why are foreigners allowed to take jobs that are rightfully those of nationals here regardless of their skin color?

All these developments flowed from decisions made by politicians. They should be held accountable.

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