Editor's Note: This column is co-authored by Jim McCoy.
We have been led to believe, first by academics, the mainstream media, and now leftist politicians including former President Barack Obama, that America is systemically racist, “tragically, painfully, maddingly normal.” The term has also been used as a modifier for homophobia, sexism, elitism, and other elements of the progressive holy grail.
The Merriam Webster unabridged dictionary defines “systemic” as something common to a system—something that is prevalent in society today. When systemic is used as a modifier with terms like racism, it means institutional--on a grand scale that is omnipresent in political and societal organizations.
The problem with the pretzel logic behind systemic is that it must, but hasn’t been used to describe persons of color. When a white cop kills an unarmed black man, this is alleged evidence of systemic racism by police and must be condemned from the tallest building. When a black protestor kills a white cop who was defending minority businesses from being looted and destroyed, crickets. The former is promoted as systemic and the latter an anomaly unworthy of mention. But the Uniform Crime Reporting database shows that 24 law enforcement officers have already been feloniously killed in 2020. During the previous year for the same time period, 20 officers were likewise killed.
According to Willis Krumholtz in The Federalist, at least 330 police officers were killed or wounded during the George Floyd riots. A number of these were black officers but apparently those black lives didn’t matter to the rioters, the BLM movement, the progressive politicians or the mainstream media. As Bruce Thornton points out, “If black lives really ‘matter,’ all this ‘passionate anger’ should be directed toward the shameful toll of dead black men every year, 6200 in 2019, the overwhelming majority at the hands of other blacks…The reason is obvious: black-on-black crime doesn’t advance the politically and fiscally profitable narrative of systemic white ‘racism’.”
Heather Mac Donald reports in the Wall Street Journal, “in 2018 (the latest year for such records) African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders and commit 60% of robberies even though they are only 13% of the nation’s population.” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz decried the “stain of fundamental, institutional racism” on America’s law enforcement, presumably even the ones who kept him safe during the rioting, burning and looting in Minneapolis. At issue is whether white cops unjustifiably kill more black people.
Two fairly recent academic studies say no. A 2019 study by David Johnson, et. al., “Officer Characteristics and Racial Disparities in Fatal Office-involved Shootings” concludes among other things “we find no overall evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities in fatal shootings, when focusing on different subtypes of shootings.” Similarly, in a 2018 National Board of Economic Research paper by Roland Fryer, Jr., “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force,” he reports “…on the most extreme use of force—officer-involved shootings—we are unable to detect any racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls.”
Rioting protestors, media talking heads (apologies to David Byrne and his bandmates of the same name), race-baiters like Al Sharpton, knee-taking pro athletes, and hand-wringing actors have all used systemic racism to establish their street creds and garner publicity for themselves during the current George Floyd extravaganza. When Donald Trump cut off travel from China to the U.S. the major news invention factories, both print and cable, pointed to this as prima facia evidence of his and the nation’s systemic racism, not as a reasonable effort to protect us from COVID-19.
People on the left advocate that systemic racism is not only perpetrated by the police, but also by the college testing services—SAT and ACT. Many progressive academic administrators and faculty have doubled down on systematism by announcing that they will no longer require students to take the SAT or ACT exams prior to their college candidacy being considered. In new Institute for Family Studies research about academic achievement, research psychologist Nicholas Zill reports that “…those who seek to bolster achievement need to also pay attention to the role of families. Even without knowing anything about the specific high schools that a group of students have attended, one can do quite as good job of predicting which students will get college degrees and which ones will not.”
Another countervailing fact is that liberal politicians and their constituents choose only black role models who shift cause from personal responsibility to systemic racism. They ignore the myriad of conservative blacks role models who advocate and have lived taking individual responsibility over systemic fantasies, people like Dr. Ben Carson, John McWhorter, Larry Elder, Condoleeza Rice, Walt Williams, Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Alveda King, LL Cool Jay, Colin Powell, etc., etc.
Children from single-parent homes, perhaps the biggest factor in racial disparities not systemic racism, is the lead cause in educational and crime disparities among many African American families. In a recent Special Report interview with Bret Baier, Shelby Steele, Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institute, astutely points out the need for blacks to take responsibility for improving their lives, starting with the institution of marriage. Steele notes that 75% percent of black children are born out of wedlock, which leads to a high percentage of families where the role of the father has been marginalized. The social and economic consequences of this fact alone cannot be overstated. Steele further points out that liberalism has fostered and perpetuates the notion of blacks as victims and this, as much as anything, has deflated their self-esteem as human beings. It has not allowed them to take responsibility for their own personal improvement believing it is something that advantaged whites and progressive government must do for them. In recent history, it would appear that racism and liberalism have a concomitant relationship. This relationship is exactly why 56 years after the Civil Rights Act, many sociological indicators give evidence that blacks are worse off than before that legislation.
Who, besides progressives, buys this systemic garbage? It is difficult to assess accurately, but we know who is selling it to us--the academy, news reporters and politicians. It can’t be the fault of human’s failure to take responsibility for themselves and their families, it must be this overarching “thing” that is the fault of some amorphous “system.” Why blame yourself for your failures when you can blame someone or something else for them? Especially if you erroneously think you can be given something that can really only be earned.
Liberals and progressives hope that the current social upheavals they are fueling will lead to another social phenomenon, one that puts them back in charge--Systemic lack of backbone. Can you see it happening? Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.