Why the lie of “systemic racism” actually hurts Blacks

As a journalist, I notice that the phrase “systemic racism” is being presented as fact by most media outlets I am looking at. It is not “reputed,” not “alleged,” not “believed.” Adopting the phrase was not a decision made by a Grand Wazoo. It is the result of Leftist group think found in most large newsrooms.

They give a mass murderer the presumption of innocence, but not the United States. 

Approaching cliche status, “systemic racism” has been adopted by even the “better” newspapers and news organizations, but what does it mean, actually? Isn’t a “system” something designed to produce a desired result? 

If “systemic racism,” as claimed by many, is a system designed by racists to enshrine white supremacy, to oppress Black people and to deny them fame, power and wealth, it is the biggest failure since “new” Coke. 

At the same time, few would deny that, like termites in a house, within our democratic system there is historic and present racism.  There are real inequities in health, wealth, incarceration, employment, education, and more. That is a fact, but not all are explained solely by race, and the defects, which are repairable, do not define the entire system as racist.

A 48% plurality of Blacks, according to Pew Research, believes bias comes more from individuals than from laws and institutions.

Belief in “systemic racism” would be depressing to Black people who might wonder why they should sit at a table with a dealer using a marked deck. Pew Research found the percentage of Blacks who feel America will make more changes toward equity was matched by Blacks who said America won’t.

The doubters are wrong, because America has changed mightily in recent decades. American racism is the worm in the apple, not the apple itself. American streets are filled with people chanting, “Black Lives Matter.”

No federal law supports racism. They all prohibit it. That is the voice of the system.

Bias in action — in housing, employment, voting, accommodations — is suppressed by our law, by most Americans and by our culture. At recent protests measured by Pew, 46% of the marchers were white.

Is our system perfect? No. No system is. A race-neutral America remains an aspiration, but we will never be race blind. We shouldn’t, because that would deny Black people.

When I heard a woman I admire, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, talk about “systemic racism,” I did a double take. How could she possibly become the mayor of a major American city if the American system is designed to oppress African-Americans?

My definition of “systemic racism” is not just playing with words, which have power. The mayor of Chicago is female, gay, and Black. The mayor of Los Angeles is Latino. The mayor of Dallas is a Black man. The New Jersey state attorney general is Sikh. These are not one-offs. These are products of the system, as are the dozens of Black members of Congress.

In the expanding African-American middle class, 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 a couple of Black billionaires. All of this was unthinkable in my youth, when you wouldn’t see a Black on TV. Now African-Americans are used as endorsers of dozens of products. Racists don’t use Blacks as endorsers.

A “systemic racist” culture 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. 

South Africa under apartheid was “systemic racism.” Nazi Germany. Maybe a few others. Those are indisputable. In America, by contrast, the U.S. Supreme Court has a customary “Black seat,“ 11.11% of the court. 13% of Americans are Black. 

When “systemic racism” is unleashed as a concept, here’s what many whites hear: “The system is racist, and since you created the system, you are racist, your racism is probably hereditary, you believe in white supremacy, you benefit from white privilege, when you deny you are racist that is proof of racism, so sit down, shut up, agree with everything we say or we will call you racist.”

It has been effective. Many gullible white people have been convinced of their guilt, or cowed into silence.

But not here. Collective guilt is unAmerican. Our legal system holds individuals responsible for their acts.

Part of the guilt some whites feel is rooted in America’s original sin — slavery. It is an unquestioned evil,.

It’s “fashionable” to think of slavery as a white, or European, invention when in fact it pre-dated Biblical times.   Africans themselves kept slaves and sold other Africans to slave traders. Some Native American tribes kept slaves. Some free Black Americans held slaves.

In the broad sweep of human history, few emerge with spotless hands.

Those who promote the reckless exaggeration of “systemic racism” harm their own cause.

The facts say otherwise, and the supply of white guilt is not unlimited. 

39 thoughts on “Why the lie of “systemic racism” actually hurts Blacks”

    Well said my friend. I think that the larger part of the problem, is that we live in a “P.C”. We have to – must have _ a word or phrase for every possible contrivance. I suppose that i’m in the minority, when I say that “systemic racism” is a crook !
    YOU are racist, not the system. I also think that, as you previously pointed out, most people are for equality. They just don’t force feed us with their beliefs.

      1. that’s 40% TOO much ! Most of that 40% is caught up in the destruction of our country

  2. You have hit another one out the ballpark, Stu. A well designed, well thought out article. Thank you for stating, as usual, what should be obvious to those that have been blinded by their own “cause.”

  3. I’ve passed this on to a stranger, Stu, the one other truthful thing that I have read this morning…Inky letter!
    Great job!!

  4. Terrific piece of research and writing, I have often wondered why Blacks insist on voting for Democrats, the very people who keep them in thrall. The fences are down, the gates are open, but far too many Blacks refuse to leave the plantation. Those who do are scorned for being ‘Uncle Toms.’

  5. When it comes to the “system” as a whole, you are absolutely right however the current unrest is a reaction to specifically law enforcement . Do you think the same theory applies? Is it only individuals who are racist or bias within the entire organization?

    1. Correct, it is individuals. What is NOT reported is the number of Black lives saved EVERY DAY by white cops. Police unions ought to do a better job of getting that out.

    2. if individuals, enforcement of existing law is lacking, which is systemic? if repubs want the black vote they should back off voter suppression, just for openers

      1. Voter I.D. is not ‘suppression.’ And lest we forget, the Jim Crow laws were of Democrat origin.

  6. STU:


  7. Nice to read common sense reporting of facts. It is a shame that most media are trying to gather ratings rather than reporting. Seems to me most of the media speak before thinking. Good reporting has really suffered since they have decided to choose a side rather than stay neutral.

  8. I went to a small college in rural Virginia in 1960. The school was all white. Lunch counter sit-ins were going on in that area at that time. A “systemic racism” case may have been made back then. But that school’s not all-white today. Only one person has been thrown out of a restaurant there lately, and that was because she worked for Trump. Mr. Obama would not have been elected our most recent past US President (twice), if white citizens hadn’t voted for him. “Separate but equal,” which of course wasn’t, forms no part of our systems today. As individuals, we’re not all the way there yet in full equality for all minorities in our society, but we should be recognizing and building on the progress we’ve made, not burning, looting and tearing both public and private things down.. Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, Dr. King and John Lewis, and others who worked constructively, sometimes at great personal danger and paid for it, laid foundations to build on. Dr. King saw our society moving and working toward the Promised Land, and so should we.

  9. Stu, how do we get you picked up by one of the major news stations?
    I posted this in my Facebook page today, hoping that your much more sane approach will be heard by a few more. Thank you!
    I strongly suggest joining Stu Bykofsky’s blog, reading his articles and joining in the dialogue. Hopefully, you remember him from his days with the Philly Inquirer and Daily News. He offers a very different perspective on today’s issues from that offered by our media. I find his writing entertaining full of facts and refreshing. Let me know what you think. Everyone should have a right to voice their opinion.

  10. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    I’m a little late in reading this latest of your posts. But let me present a challenge.

    NAACP President Derrick Johnson “defined systemic racism,” also called structural racism or institutional racism, as “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages African Americans.”

    Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines, defined it as “the complex interaction of culture, policy and institutions that holds in place the outcomes we see in our lives.”

    –End quotation

    It would seem to follow from these definitions on offer that “systemic racism” so-called, need not be a system specifically designed for racist purposes. Instead, it would appear to be a matter of whatever “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages African Americans” or “the complex interaction of culture, policy and institutions that holds in place the outcomes we see in our lives.” All the emphasis here is on actual outcomes and not on the intentions or design of the system –and on the actual effects of “systems” and institutions.

    Given these proposed definitions (and I am not aware of better proposals), the design or intention of the “systems” and “institutions” under criticism (whatever they are), are indistinguishable, from those “designed” or functioning chiefly for other purposes. An obvious candidate would be the contemporary economic system –which has produced growing economic inequalities over the last several decades; we may also suppose, of course, that this was not intentionally designed to achieve that result. Globalization was not “designed,” say, to impoverish the lower-middle class, but it has had that effect.

    I am reminded of an old imaginative example of unplanned, but coordination of efforts. If you put a group of men in a boat all intended to go somewhere, then they will eventually coordinate their rowing –even without any discussion or plan. The point is that coordinated activities resulting in particular effects may develop “bottom-up” and without a plan or explicit intention.

    The contemporary activist left, unfortunately, is not inclined to recognize this kind of point –they seem to prefer to suggest evil intentions. But it is also quite remarkable that they are so focused on race and racism –our one remaining taboo, perhaps?–rather than focusing on the character of the present economic regime of globalization and concentration of wealth and power among the globalizing elites. As wealth is concentrated, more and more, those with less of it also have less power –even less power over electoral results which tend to be more swayed by campaign donations and powerful, highly funded institutions.

    H.G. Callaway

    1. They have their definitions, to benefit them.
      I have mine and it is based on common English usage.
      In a previous column I think I proved “mass incarceration” is a lie, too.

  11. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    Choice of definition here is not up to us. As I say, dictionary definitions depend on collections of empirical evidence of actual usage.

    If your point is to dispute the idea of “systemic racism” in American society, then we cannot simply re-define it; we have to follow the usage of those who bring the charge or criticism. According to the usage I quoted above, the attribution of systemic racism does not depend on its being planed or instituted by intention or with racist motives. It depends on the actual outcomes. By redefining the notion you craft a criticism of something else. That’s what Johnson & Co. would surely reply.

    H.G. Callaway

    1. H.G. Calloway – you can’t define things based on outcomes. You need to define them based on opportunities. By your definition, the NBA suffers from systemic racism against whites… because the outcome is that whites are WAY underrepresented when compared to their percentage of the general population. Same thing for teachers and nurses… there is systemic anti-male bigotry in both professions, if we are simply going off of outcomes.

      A good economist will tell you that there are a lot of factors in play in the choices people make…. boiling it down to “the outcomes are different so there must be racism” is simplistic beyond belief, and doesn’t take into account the choices made by people and populations.

      1. Actually, that’s precisely what good statisticians do regularly. Some call it regression analysis.

  12. “Systemic racism” is an apt term. Statistics show African-Americans are five times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. Blacks make up 13% of the American population, but represent 37% of male prisoners. Black women are twice as likely to be incarcerated compared to white women. Are we to believe the criminal element is fiercer in people of color? Clearly, bias is a major factor in case dispositions. And when institutions act in a way that affect a demographic in profoundly unequal ways, then “systemic” is accurate, and clearly based on race. I don’t think “systemic racism” is misleading or inaccurate. Look to the outcomes.

    1. You really want to make that case, Suzette?
      As neutral as I can make it: Violent crime is an expression of poverty. Blacks are at the bottom of the economic ladder, so it is to be expected they are disproportionately represented in crime stats. One graph I could not use shows Blacks as 13% of population, but 40% of prison population.
      Do you ACTUALLY believe the majority of them committed no crime? They were all railroaded? If so, what does that belief rest on? The numbers do not “prove“ bias, any more than the startling number of Jewish winners of Pulitzer prizes proves bias (favoritism).
      Another note about bias. What “ethnic group” sits atop the American pyramid of wealth? Whites? No. East Asians, who are brown.

  13. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Standring & readers,

    If you live in the city, then you likely know what areas are safe (say at night) and which are not. Likewise, you would know which areas of the city are infested with drugs, drug gangs and related crime. People of all races and background (in the city) know these things.

    What is lacking in the city, and in its worst areas in particular, more basically, is jobs which can support families. But we notice that in globalization, the manufacturing jobs of the lower middle class have been exported on a massive scale. At the same time, we have seen mass immigration –which hits the people at the bottom of the economic ladder first. My thesis is that people generally, if given some opportunity to work, to marry and to raise children will mostly do just that. In consequence the epidemic of crime and violence in the city is an anomaly which requires some explanation.

    The exclusive focus on race tends to disguise and distract from the economic problems and the defective economic policies which have so often de-industrialized the larger cities. As I say, racism is apparently our “last taboo.” And are we to believe that robbing people of their livelihood can safely be ignored? Is it just “normal” and something we need not concern ourselves with?

    If we only look at the “actual outcomes” in demographic terms, we effectively ignore the actual causes of growing inequalities over decades. Without jobs, families break up. When families break up, people become desperate. When people, especially young people without educational attainment become desperate, then they will likely turn to crime, and violence. Its a familiar story. Why is it being ignored?

    Who benefits?

    H.G. Callaway

    I have to disagree with you. In earlier blogs, I have made this argument.
    First, race: No one can deny that the black race has been held down for many years. True, they are climbing the economic ladder, but ever so slowly. This is due to the method of their relocation. They came here as slaves, with , let’s say, no visible skills or education – unlike any other race.
    Second, economic poverty: Because the black have been held down for so long, opportunities were slow to come to them. Many males joined the military to escape the ghetto and poverty. The women were left here to find sub standard work. The youth saw their chance to escape poverty through dealing drugs and/or crime. To them, the phrase,”what have I got to lose?” really hits home. They had nothing to lose.
    H.G., in 256 years, the United States has come a long way. We went through change after change to get where we are today. What we have accomplished, so far, is only a fraction of what we are capable of accomplishing. The blacks and all minorities will prosper because all of us are striving for equality. It can’t be handed to anyone race. It has to be earned. In today’s world, the black race has proven that they have what it takes. When given a chance, they strive – both man and woman – in education, sports and work ethics. ( a local lad went up in space )
    Nothing and no one is being ignored. The biggest problem is how divided we, as a nation, are. The President has done many things in support of racial equality. Can’t say the same for the useless dims and rinos in congress.

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