What is it?
Systemic Racism clearly exists but as a white male living in a mostly white, small city I have known this kind of racism exists. Because, currently I have no black friends, one Asian-American acquaintance; I am not confronted by systemic racism daily so I haven’t felt it, until recently. But I am a part of white male privilege and I have used compartmentalization to screen out the privileged system I am a part so I don’t feel its affects until recent events: the brutal murder of George Floyd. And the constant barrage of bigotry against people of color, non-Christians, Hispanics and so on.
This makes me a racist.
I am part of the system and up until now I have only been tacitly fighting against the systemic injustices (monthly donations to the SPLC, ACLU etc.). I have not used my privilege to help level the playing field. Inaction while pleading ignorance is inaction, indifference and systemic racism.
Anyone who is different is often shunned by their community and/or persecuted.
Most white people don’t think they’re racists when they are; because of prejudices of an exclusion mentality (us and them). On an individual basis of meeting a black man, woman, an Asian man or woman, or an indigenous American there is a kindness that may exist and treating people as equals in-person (taken out-of-context of “privilege”). As a group whether the people are thought of as different or consigned to a lesser-than position than another group then this is part of systemic racism and is most likely an unconscious response.
One reason we may not be aware of as members of a white privileged class is one of systemic laws that arise out of the Jim Crow Laws after the Civil War to redlining (economic denial of people of color based on segregation and location for private sector benefits as well as government benefits thus keeping people of color — mainly blacks — in economic slavery). In 2013 the Supreme Court struck down part of The Voting Rights Act of 1965 on the assumption that racism had been eliminated and as a result opening up states’ rights to discriminate against blacks and people of color. This along with gerrymandering to keep politicians in power — mainly Republicans currently. These are examples of systemic racism — and have been hidden from well-meaning liberals by Mainstream Media. Once again, here is the out-of-sight / out-of-mind rubric at work. It’s easier for privileged whites and white males to say they are not racist because of the body of laws that exist systemically to keep black people and people of color enslaved are hidden from public view.
“pull yourself up by your bootstraps”
Anyone who is different is often shunned by their community and/or persecuted. They may take up positions of isolation to feel safe. This is a two-tiered process of racism at work. Isolation in more obvious examples lead to segregation. Those who are shunned from the white communities are put in positions of “out-of-sight / out-of-mind”. However black people have contact with white people in the course of daily life. Due to many hundreds of years of oppression / slavery from injustices related to: economic, educational, social, police harassment, brutality and death and the (in)justice system including needless incarcerations of young black males, voting rights prejudices, bias and bigotry (written into law) are some of the examples of systemic racism.
If you were born into white middle- and upper-class culture you and I are a part of systemic racism whether we admit it or not. The first step in resolving a problem is admitting there is one.
The “Pull-Yourself-Up-By-Your-Bootstraps” Metaphor
What does this mean?
If it were so simple that’s what people with profound depression, or people of color would easily do if circumstances were fair or the playing field was all equal and level. The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” metaphor is usually spoken offhandedly by those that consider themselves strong individualists often from white middle class or upper-class families (or disenfranchised white male members of Right-Wing or Neo-Nazi radicalized groups). They are firm believers in the American Dream: work hard and achieve your dreams. They have no idea that the American Dream is only available to those with privilege and wannabes (see end notes on wannabes). Being so entrenched or enamored with(in) the system of privilege they deny their place in it.
I didn’t want to give up the privilege of wearing a man’s body
So, they make idiotic, cavalier statements without understanding their so-called “superior” status in the world of privilege and dismiss others without it who often find themselves in positions of slavery.
Privilege and Exploitation
We shun or are afraid of others for their differences most times unconsciously. It has been my choice to isolate and privilege has allowed that option. From privilege comes advantage. From advantage comes exploitation.
Let somebody else do it.
Privilege, advantage and exploitation can easily be rationalized away as a racist stance by power-possessors and those who have money and the power that massive accumulations of money create. The bubble of Republicans before and after Trump has been one of male white power in a world being transformed by an influx of non-whites in numbers to the United States. Fear, prejudice and bigotry have been and are being manipulated by many Republicans to hold onto their power. Blame the Blacks, Hispanics, the Muslims, the Asian-Americans, the immigrants, the other to foment racist furor in those afraid of the changes.
Money and Transformation
And yet everyone who has some money would like to hang-on to it even if it means depriving others that may need it. The thought is – let the rich pay for the changes needed for economic transformation. Let somebody else do it. And so everyone thinks the same way whether its economic justice for all or remedying the climate crisis.
There may be an unconscious element at work in electing a president and other representatives. When we elect them, we trust them to do the right thing much the same as a child trusts a parent. We the people often leave the practice of democracy to others to our elected representatives and activists rather than joining with activists in a truly participatory democracy. After all we have had a marvelous tool to help us in participating in democracy computers and the Internet – but again for the privileged who can afford it.
If everything isn’t addressed at once from my pocketbook and yours. By everything I mean:
- Replacing Privilege with the Public Good
- Economic equity and justice
- Healthcare for all administered by Government through heavily regulated Insurance, Big Pharma, the AMA.
- Justice for All (especially for those that can’t pay for it)
- Prison Transformation
- Investments in Public Education
- Investments in the Postal service
- Investments in Public Infrastructure
- Balancing Police and Defense Spending with Public Investment
- Investments in Methods that Save the Planet from the Shortsightedness of Predatory Capitalism from industry and consumer/citizens point of view
- Replacing Predatory Capitalism and its singular focus on profit to the expense of all else, to a longer-term system based on human and planetary health.
- And more… (I’m sure I’m leaving something out.)
Let’s not leave anybody out because we cannot embrace our shadow and own the darker elements of our psyche. The first step in solving a problem is the admission that we have one.
*Wannabes – are people who live outside the American dream who may or may not be privileged. They are often NOT people of color. They believe so strongly in The American Dream and being the strong individualist that the public good does not enter their rubric of the American Dream. They look to and worship those that – in their eyes have achieved the American Dream and sacrifice all for either worshiping their heroes or amassing more and more money to achieve the Dream. But “More” is never enough.