“Systemic racism”: What do you mean by it?

After Sen. Tim Scott’s post-Biden address, CNN’s Van Jones said “tens of millions” of American Blacks tuned out when Scott declared, “America is not a racist nation.”

Jones was absolutely correct. I do not deny reality.

Sen, Tim Scott (left) and Van Jones. Not that far apart?

There is an explanation for that tune out. It’s called group think.

Willfully blind to the vast changes in America since the 1960s — before which there was systemic racism throughout the South, and elsewhere — locked into a narrative of their own victimhood, too many Blacks tune out. There is no denying it.

Scott acknowledged his own experiences with racism, but that was lost on Joyless Reid, over at MSNBC.

She upbraided Scott for saying there is no racism in America.

He. Did. Not. Say. That.

And the difference between what he said and what she heard is what I want to discuss. “Systemic racism” is more than mere semantics. We’ll take a look at that in a minute.

Reid is a poor witness because she has trouble telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

The other day she reported — accurately — that Blacks were lagging well behind whites in the number of vaccinations received.

She turned that into proof — inaccurately — that America is racist.

She deliberately ignored the sad and well-known truth that more Blacks have resistance to vaccination than whites. That is a better explanation than racism of the lower vaccination rate, and since Reid knows that, her comment was pure race-baiting. (Part of Black resistance is based on past racism on the part of the medical profession.)

Scott was viciously attacked on social media by the Left, often in racist terms such as Uncle Tom (or Uncle Tim), because being progressive means never having to follow your own self-espoused rules of civility.

Let me return to Van Jones. After saying “tens of millions” of Blacks tuned out after Scott said “America is not a racist nation,” you might have expected him to say, “America is a racist nation.”

But he did not say that. Why?

Because he knows that is not true, in my opinion. 

Jones is as sharp as a Gillette blade. He knows how to work the angles.

Here is what he did say: “It is very clear this country is still struggling with racism, we still have racism showing up in almost every institution.”

Again, I agree with Jones, but can you see the difference between “struggling with racism” and is a racist nation?

Racist nations don’t “struggle” with racism, they luxuriate in it. 

South Africa before the end of Apartheid was a racist state. There was no hiding it, there were no apologies for it.

Scott’s native South Carolina was a racist state when his grandfather was young.

Then, not now. Proof? Hel-lo. How about a Black man as its U.S. Senator?

I have discussed “systemic racism” before, in a serious way, and speculated that my relatively benign view of racism today is explained by the fact I lived through an era of actual systemic racism in America. It was real. Then.

If you came to your majority after, say, the civil rights and voting acts of the ‘60s, you never knew how bad it was, so the (to me) lesser transgressions of today seem major to you because you have no basis of comparison.

Let’s examine “systemic racism” by breaking it into four quadrants.

Is America always racist, sometimes racist, rarely racist, or never racist?

If you say “America is a racist country,” that is binary, like being pregnant. You are, or you are not. It means America is always racist.

No rational person can believe America is always racist. No rational person can believe America is never racist.

So we’re left with sometimes or rarely.

I’ll take sometimes.

I think Jones exaggerated when he said “we still have racism showing up in almost every institution,” but, OK, let’s accept it for the sake of discussion.

Almost half of African-Americans, according to Pew Reseach, believe discrimination comes more from individuals than institutions. Only 40% believe it is in institutions. 

Every “system” we have today, and that is where we live, is designed to thwart discrimination of almost every kind. Every institution that accepts federal money, or federal tax breaks, must abide by federal rules. This is true in all public accommodation, in housing, hiring, lending, justice, social services, and so on.

When racism occurs — and it does — it is a violation of the system. It is not the system itself.

Despite the obstacles, in recent decades the Black middle class has expanded, Black income and educational attainment has increased, along with interracial marriage.

It is hard to surrender cherished beliefs, but there are thousands of Black elected and appointed officials  across America — mayors, police chiefs, state attorneys, superintendents of schools, university presidents (plus a U.S. president), even seven Black billionaires.

A “systemic racist” nation would never tolerate that, nor Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Maxine Waters, Michael Jordan, Beyonce, Don Lemon, Spike Lee, Audra McDonald, Clarence Thomas, RuPaul, Toni Morrison. Every one a millionaire.

As we work to lessen discrimination where we find it, as future generations of African-Americans achieve even more, they will not be able to explain the contradiction between a belief in “systemic racism” and their own success in America.

That’s the opinion of an old white guy, so I’ll close with the words of someone else: “I don’t think America is a racist country.”

Thank you, Vice President Kamala Harris.

Will she be attacked by the Left as an Aunt Jemima?

13 thoughts on ““Systemic racism”: What do you mean by it?”

    You did it again ! In your usual professional manner, you dug deep like the investigative journalist that you are. You examine every possibility and write the results. (sic) I asked you before why you don’t teach, and basically, you can’t teach journalism the way you learned. The right way .
    I have to put a crink in your writings. Today, everyone keys on some form of racism aimed at the blacks. Why is that ? Everyone on this blog has/had people come here from another country. ( only half of me ) All of our people have been the targets of racism, bigotry and anything to do with the word ‘equal’. In many cases, that has passed, but our friends from Asia and even other countries still see racism. True, not to the extent of the black population and I believe that that is because of the distribution of that particular population. ( in southern California, for example, you are not a minority if you are Hispanic )
    Back to the topic. I have to agree with Senator Scott and obviously you, Stu. There still is racism in America. Again, where you are and who you are plays a very large part in anything resembling racism.

  2. Good afternoon Mr. Bykofsky,

    Another excellent article. Thank you.

    Just when I was about to agree with every word you wrote, I was so informed that Ms. Joy Behar weighed-in on this subject.

    “Now, Tim Scott, he does not seem to understand — and a lot of them don’t seem to understand the difference between a racist country and a systemic — systemic racism,” The View co-host said Thursday. “They don’t seem to get the difference. Maybe it’s not a racist country. Maybe Americans, the majority, are not racist. But we live in a country with systemic racism.”

    It seems that Ms. Behar has insight that Senator Scott does not. Looking up the definition of elitist. Will get back to you soon.

    Have a great racist-free weekend!

    1. Joyless is at least on the right track. I agree there may be racism in the system, but the SYSTEM is not racist. Our SYSTEMS are designed to thwart racism, not always successful.
      Banks are designed to thwart robbers, not always successfully, but we don’t say get rid of all banks.

  3. You’ve explained it as well as Senator Scott….thank you. The question is will you settle for VP if Tim asks? 😀

  4. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    President Biden also said that America is not a racist country–in a subsequent interview and responding to the Senator from S. Carolina.

    I recall giving a talk on William James at the University of S. Carolina in Columbia, and after several more or less conventional answers and replies, one gentleman stood and asked a sort of rambling question–to the effect of “What to do if you are descendent from the traditions of the Old South”? My answer was that if S. Carolina was my home, then the first thing I would do would be to “take down that flag.” (The Confederate battle flag still flew over the state Capitol building at the time.) We looked in on the state Capitol building just as the legislature was breaking its session. Though the state is about 1/3 black, we saw only a couple among the legislators as they were leaving the session. This was in 1999.

    There is quite a contrast with Pennsylvania –which Wm. Penn founded on the basis of religious pluralism –no official religion from the start. We quickly had a Catholic church –Old St, Mary’s which, of course, is still there. You’ll recall that local Catholics were signers of the Declaration. This founding, on the freedom of religion, unlike that typical of the South encouraged the arrival of people with very diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Few new people immigrated to the South before recent decades. Who would want to compete with slave labor? Moreover, the “Jim Crow” system tended to make the South a poorer and often dreary place for new comers.

    In addition, Pennsylvania passed its “gradual emancipation” (meaning people were no longer born into slavery) during the Revolutionary War. That was, at the time, a quite audacious moral act.

    Its not that Pennsylvania has been perfect. Far from it, but there is a positive story to be told. Its a story of fighting prejudice and pre-judgment based on mere demographic groupings and background.

    H.G. Callaway

      1. Philadelphia, PA

        Dear Stu,

        I was thinking of Thomas Fitsimmons, a PA delegate to the constitutional convention–and a signer of the Constitution:


        The signer of the Declaration was from Maryland, which had been originally founded as a refuge for Catholics subject to persecution in GB.

        Charles Carroll, (born Sept. 19, 1737, Annapolis, Md. [U.S.]—died Nov. 14, 1832, Baltimore, Md., U.S.), American patriot leader, the longest- surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the only Roman Catholic to sign that document.

        As a general matter, colonial America was just as Protestant as G.B.

        H.G. Callaway

  5. Thank you Stu,
    Again another piece of real journalism from you.
    This is not a racist country. We have Black History Month, Black Consortium of Doctors etc. Would we be able
    to say White History Month or White Doctors Consortium? I don’t think so!!!
    As far a “The View” and Joyless Behar, a show i used to watch years ago when Barbara Walters started it…
    she’s lucky to have a job…she’s a has been like Robert DeNiro and quite frankly they are very angry people.
    The Media and the Democratic party divide this country and contribute to Racism. That is their platform.

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