The fact is undeniable. The United States of America was and is afflicted with systemic racism. But hear me out.
It cannot be held against the Founding Fathers that Dutch, Spanish, British and other colonizers brought over thousands of black slaves in the 150 years before independence. Sad to say, slavery was very much a part of that era and spanned the globe. But the Founders are responsible for enshrining into American law systemic discrimination (including slavery) against disfavored groups, and blacks top that list. The Constitution’s “three-fifths compromise” was an attempt to improve the status of blacks. The Southern states wanted each black to be fully counted in order to increase their representation in Congress but without granting any civil or voting rights to blacks. The Northern states objected and the compromise was reached that as long as blacks were denied rights, five blacks would be counted as three.
Be that as it may, it is indisputable that blacks suffered discrimination. They were denied basic human rights, enslaved, considered chattel, and could not live with dignity. It is also true that a gruesome Civil War was fought –the bloodiest in American history – during which blacks were fully emancipated. The South remained obstreperous, and harsh, discriminatory laws lingered for almost a century until the march of history flattened the racists and bigots who measured human life only by the color of one’s skin.
It is also indisputable that bigotry in other forms was also rooted in American life. For decades after American independence, Jews in some places were denied the right to vote and own property, and Blue Laws that prohibited Sunday work forced Jews to choose between observing Shabbat and being unable to work for two consecutive days, something that was financially untenable for many Jews.
Infamously, Chinese and other Asian immigrants were categorically excluded by racist immigration laws, and Catholics who came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries dealt with enormous prejudice. Indeed, it is perhaps inevitable that the most heterogeneous society on the planet should suffer from racism. Newcomers, and others with different values, lifestyles or even religion, are greeted with suspicion. Most countries are homogeneous, severely restrict immigration and citizenship, and mostly avoid the pitfalls of racism. But they lose out on the advantages of the heterogeneous society.
Yet, America, a unique country in that it construed itself as a melting pot that welcomed all nationalities and faiths, dealt with its prejudices in a sustained way, changing laws and transforming hearts and minds along the way. It attempts to be as free of hatred as any individual can possibly be, hatred being an emotion that is part of our makeup. There is no multi-ethnic society in the world today that is as free and as welcoming as is America, which, for some strange reason, continues to be a magnet for immigrants across the globe who want to live in that systemically racist society. America progressed because it embraced Martin Luther King’s vision of people being judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Unfortunately, though, the US still retains “systemic racism;” it is just that the targets of its systemic racism today are no longer blacks but whites and Asians.
Consider the following. There is a Marxist, anti-Jewish, anti-Israel and anti-American group called Black Lives Matter that has achieved much notoriety in recent years. It is extraordinarily well funded and it has achieved notable political gains, including gaining a strong foothold in the Democratic Party. It is by definition a racist group; obviously, a group that called itself “White Lives Matter” would be considered racist. This group has elevated skin color above everything else. By this standard, Rev. King is a racist too because he rejected the stupidity that skin color means anything. To these people and their supporters, skin color means everything. That is racist, systemic racism, racism that is built into the American system.
Thus, adherents to their philosophy seek segregated college dorms and graduations – just for blacks. They want to be exempt from certain laws and prosecutions – but only for themselves. They demand preferential treatment in employment and college admissions – just because of their skin color. They are favored today with government handouts – from agricultural subsidies to scholarships to housing assistance – all unrelated to need and only related to skin color. That is racist. “Critical Race Theory” – that everything, but everything, in society revolves around skin color – is racist. It is a smack in the face to traditional American values. It is astonishing that it is tolerated, much less taught in schools to impressionable children.
The ruling powers have abandoned the pursuit of equality of opportunity, which is morally sound, for pursuit of equality of result, which is morally repugnant as well as impossible to achieve without confiscating assets from one group to give to another. The Biden administration has embraced identity politics to the extreme. Government appointments are not at all based on competence but on complexion, gender, national origin or some other irrelevancy. It is almost a parody – fill in here a black female and there an Eskimo, here an American Indian and there a Hispanic. Qualifications are secondary considerations. It would be a fantastic parody but for the pervasive panic of the parodist losing his livelihood and possibly his life pointing out the obvious absurdity.
It is unbecoming, even disgraceful, to scan team rosters (except for the NBA), company letterheads, corporate boards, movie credits and the granting of awards to count how many of each group is represented, and then to change the format, composition or standards to augment the number of one group and limit the number of another. That too is systemic racism. Identity politics is racist to the core. The sacred value of “diversity” is also racist because its sole criterion is physical appearance rather than ideas, values, or ability. Skin color has become such a definitive characteristic that the media has begun to refer to Blacks or Black (upper case) and not black or blacks. Whites remain white, stuck in the lower case.
They have roped in well meaning Jews as well, Jews who are overcome by guilt because somehow while hiding from the Czar’s predations in the Pale of Settlement, Jews too were responsible for slavery in the American South. The recent Gaza War exposed Black Lives Matter as an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish hate group. Jews who last year endorsed and thus empowered BLM – liberals, leaders, organizations, even rabbis – were woefully misguided. Some have admitted their error and walked back their support. Others, in their misplaced guilt exacerbated by fear, still support them in order to escape the horror of being labeled “racists.” These Jews timidly refuse to condemn BLM’s anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric. They don’t see the irony in supporting racists who want to destroy them just so that they can avoid being called racists – by the racists themselves. They indeed are providing their enemies with the rope that will be used to hang them. Jewish groups are quick to denounce white supremacists who are a fringe in today’s America, scorned outcasts, and give a pass to the black supremacists who are well organized, well funded, unafraid to spread their racism and Jew hatred and who constitute a sizable part of America’s leftist political mainstream.
Every nickel or job provided to any person simply based on skin color – and not given to another because of his skin color – is an example of systemic racism. The same is true of any advantage, benefit, unequal treatment, grading on a curve, etc. – whenever the determinant is skin color or ethnicity, the winner is a beneficiary of systemic racism and the loser is a victim of systemic racism. Similarly, attributing every crime committed by a white against a black to the fact that he or she is black without any evidence is also racist. It also pointedly ignores the dismal fact that 95% of crimes committed against blacks are perpetrated by other blacks.
Asians particularly are suffering the effects of the newest version of systemic racism, suffering discrimination in admissions and employment that the elitist, establishment denizens of an intimidated America only wink at.
The United States made enormous strides and at great cost overcame the legacy of the systemic racism that tarred its founding. How unfortunate is it that systemic racism still exists and is being perpetuated, and in many cases celebrated, by its current beneficiaries. What has changed is the victims of that racism are not the original victims but whites, Asians and others who still see America as the land of liberty, freedom, equality and opportunity for all.
Can the King vision will be realized? Not in the short term. Today’s systemic racism is too entrenched. But its prospects in the long term will define America’s viability, prosperity and domestic harmony. It was Chief Justice Roberts who wrote more than fourteen years ago that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” It is probably the most sensible opinion he has expressed. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another Civil War to eradicate the modern manifestation of systemic racism.