Systemic racism, also known as institutional or structural racism, is a new phrase for a new situation. We live in a society where racism is not, and cannot be, openly professed. To do so not only is frowned upon but will get you into serious trouble, if not yet jail, in America. Yet even though this is impossible to miss and known to all, “systemic racism” supposedly persists. The phrase describes a society that is so little racist that no one can respectably advocate racism, yet so much racist that every part of it is soaked with racism. We live with the paradox of a racist society without racists.....
Systemic racism has disadvantages as a way of thinking that outweigh the specious advantage of not having to argue about justice. It tells blacks that they are quite OK, and that it is entirely up to whites to change their thinking and their behavior. This means that blacks must allow whites to hold their future for them.....
Systemic racism ignores the agency of black citizens, leaving them nothing to do except to protest in the streets or cheer from the sidelines. Meanwhile whites are told by the same idea that all their past efforts against white supremacy have been in vain. Nothing they have done has worked or could have worked. All along our history, the Constitution and the Rights of Man we thought we practiced and defended were nothing but the power of white men. All the heroes of both races and their sacrifices were defeated by systemic racism and went for naught. What we might do now differently from what we have done in the past is left totally unclear. More affirmative action and more subsidies—what can they do that will now help instead of hurt? Call them “reparations”—will that do any good?...
The cancel culture is a malignant growth from the idea of systemic racism. Those who cancel stop accusing themselves; they step outside of the system they denounce. After asserting the guilt of all whites, these whites give themselves a pass.
“Systemic racism” is a bogus description that issues in an accusation made in doubtful faith that contradicts itself. But it is held by many fellow Americans, so let’s not dismiss it. It’s better to treat it respectfully as a disputable opinion.
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