Denial of systemic racism is very much alive in America, predominantly among conservatives. I often see prominent right wing pundits trying to "debunk" systemic racism, like Ben Shapiro does in the example I'll include in this post. They are wrong though; systemic racism is just one of the many, very real systemic issues that need to be tackled if we want to move towards a fairer, more just society.
Even if you are on the side of denying the existence of systemic racism, you still have to admit to the facts and statistics that are there for anyone to see; black and Hispanic people do worse in many metrics of American society, like employment rates, median income, representation in high paying jobs, representation in political bodies like Congress and Senate, household wealth, upward income mobility, education level, denial rates for loans, home ownership, Covid-19 hospitalization rates, arrests and convictions and so on. A nice overview, represented in simple charts, can be found in this article by Business Insider: 26 simple charts to show friends and family who aren’t convinced racism is still a problem in America. The differences are clear, present and overwhelming, so there's clearly something going on here.
Now, the biggest problem with denying the existence of systemic racism isn't even the denial itself, it's what follows. I don't know if it has something to do with modern society's constant and unhealthy emphasis on individualism, but those who deny systemic racism almost always resort to an explanation based on individual responsibility when they try to account for the clear and present differences. Ben Shapiro once said in an interview with Joe Rogan, that to break the cycle of criminal behavior and incarceration, the only solution is for young black men who grew up in the ghetto to choose to not get involved in criminal gangs; it's always only a matter of personal responsibility and freedom of choice for people like Ben Shapiro. The problem with that is that if systemic or environmental issues play no role, the blame falls solely on the individual black men. The conclusion then is that there's something wrong with those black men, or with their culture. I hope you can see how this can easily lead to racism...
Another often heard argument to deny the existence of systemic or institutional racism is this: "name one law that's racist!" Deniers of systemic racism love to point out the fact that there are no more laws that treat black people different from white people; the law is the same for everyone, and everyone has to play by the same rules. That's true, but there are still many ways to disadvantage certain targeted demographics. One of those ways is "redlining", where banks refuse loans to people, not because the color of their skin but because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk; it's a coincidence then that those areas are populated by high concentrations of colored people I guess. During the last elections we could see another way to disadvantage colored people in action: gerrymandering, the removal of polling booths in predominantly black neighborhoods and imposing voting restrictions that are more likely to limit minority turnout.
I don't remember where I heard it, but I'll give you all an analogy that I found helpful in explaining systemic racism in America. Imagine you're playing a game of monopoly with two friends. The three of you start with an equal amount of money and, more importantly, the same rules. You and your friends play for a while, buying streets, building hotels and so on. Now imagine a fourth player coming in, after all the assets have been bought and populated with hotels by you and your friends. You give that fourth person some money and let him participate in the game. The same rules apply to everyone, right? So that should be fair, right? No, of course not; that fourth player is a victim of a severe systemic disadvantage, just like African Americans in the U.S.
To admit to the existence of systemic racism isn't saying that America is full of racists, or that there are laws written to disadvantage black people. Not at all. But on the flip-side, denying the existence of systemic racism often feeds racist views. It's not a simple problem to solve, like any other systemic problem it requires an honest look at the entire system and probably an overhaul of that system. Like the systemic poverty that targets white and colored people of all genders...
Debunked: Ben Shapiro's Attacks on Systemic Racism
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