[Edit: Just modified to make this open to comments. —mh]
Systemic Racism: Examples
In recent years, the term “systemic racism” has become popular, due to how it enables you to go around calling more and more things “racist” even in the absence of any people who actually have any racial prejudice. Be that as it may, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid concept that picks out a real aspect of the world.
The basic idea is that it is not only people that can be racist; social systems and institutions can also be racist. Sometimes, it sounds like woke people are saying that we have institutions and policies that were specifically designed, by racists in the past, to harm blacks; other times, it sounds like they’re saying that policies and institutions are “racist” whenever they disadvantage minority races, whether or not that was their intent. The part in italics is important, because that greatly expands the scope for calling things “racist” (which is of course a key goal for SJW’s).
Now, what would be an example of systemic racism? This may be the most prominent example: In the American drug laws, the penalties for crack cocaine are much higher than those for powder cocaine. It happens that crack cocaine is more popular among black drug users, whereas white drug users tend to prefer powder cocaine. So black users and sellers tend to face much harsher punishments, for a very similar crime, than white users and sellers. Sounds super-racist. When you hear about this, you might even think it is an instance of regular old-fashioned racism, wherein someone was deliberately trying to disadvantage blacks out of racial animosity.
Btw, the drug laws more generally are sometimes cited as systemic racism, due to the devastation they have wreaked on black communities.
Why We Did It
You can call that “racism” if you want. But let’s tell the truth about why we have these policies. No, it wasn’t because white supremacists pushed for them to put blacks in jail because they hated blacks. We have these policies largely because black leaders pushed for them, to help black communities.
What? How can this be? It’s really not so strange. The drug war didn’t occur because a bunch of demons who wanted to destroy America got elected. It occurred because, at least at the start, people actually thought it was going to work. People thought that prohibiting drugs would stop people from using them. When that didn’t seem to be working, people thought that increasing the penalties would stop people from using and selling. Which sounds intuitive, before you have empirical evidence. That’s the obvious explanation, so there’s no need to posit some hidden, 3-dimensional chess strategy by white supremacists who foresaw how things would go over the next few decades and outsmarted everyone else.
That’s why the Congressional Black Caucus met with Richard Nixon in the 1970’s and urged him to ramp up the drug war, and that’s why in the 1980’s they promoted harsher penalties for crack cocaine. (https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/22549/20130819/why-did-black-leaders-support-america-s-drug-war-for-so-long) Crack was devastating black communities, and they thought this would actually solve the problem. So yes, we have the differential punishments because crack is more prevalent among blacks – but not because the government was trying to harm blacks but because it was trying to help them.
If this surprises you, you probably haven’t examined enough government policies. This was just one example of what happens so often with government policy: the policy does the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. The drug war has made criminal organizations more powerful, as drugs are their main source of income. The harsh penalties for drugs have caused dealers to recruit children to sell drugs on the street, knowing that only juveniles can avoid harsh mandatory minimum sentences. In these and other ways, the drug war has made the drug problem much worse.
Why We’re Still Doing It
It’s a mystery that we’re still doing the drug war, given how badly it has failed for the last half century. I think it’s partly momentum and status quo bias: once you have a long-standing prohibition on something, average people just assume that thing is bad and should be prohibited.
Even when a policy is clearly failing, many people’s default assumption is that the policy must at least sort of do what it’s supposed to do, and all we need to do is put more money and more effort into it.
Also, drug users and dealers are not very pleasant. If a politician starts advocating for drug legalization, he’ll be perceived as friendly with drug dealers and users, which will make him unpopular with normies. Drug users and sellers are not a big voting block, so it’s not worth potentially alienating the normies.
1. When you want to know why we have some problem, whether it be poverty, racial disparities, war, drugs, etc., one good place to start looking is the government’s efforts to fix that problem.
2. If you’re going to use “racism” to refer to policies that in fact harm blacks, regardless of their intent, then you’re going to have to say that a lot of racism consists of attempts to help blacks. In fact, that’s probably the main form of “racism” in America today. On this, see: https://www.amazon.com/Please-Stop-Helping-Us-Liberals/dp/1594038414. Other possible examples: welfare, affirmative action. (May be topics for future posts.)
3. If you’re trying to understand some aspect of our society, it’s usually not some diabolical plot.
E.g., the government is frequently incompetent, but they’re rarely outright malicious. So when they fuck things up, it’s probably because they thought they were accomplishing something that most people would regard as good. And by the way, even in the very racist days of the 1970’s, most people weren’t trying to hurt blacks just purely for the sake of hurting them.
Most of the people you don’t know are normal people, like the people you know.
Another case of things originally done to help blacks that have been reinterpreted as racist is race norming of cognitive tests. Lots of people complained when the NFL use race-normed cognitive tests when deciding who got concussion payouts. I believe this sort of race norming was originally done to keep a large number of blacks from being classified as mentally deficient.
That reminds me of Reagan's 9 most terrifying words in the English lenguage