“Structural racism” has become a misplaced act of faith
today at 2:15 pm
“Structural racism” has become the touchstone of the Left. If you subscribe to its reality, if you knee and foreswear your “white privilege” and beg forgiveness before a woke cop as if he/she/they were a priest confessor, you will be admitted to the tabernacle of true believers, the pure of heart and the orthodoxy of the saved.
But what is this sanctified “structural racism” that has descended on America as if it were a plague brought forth by an avenging God. Will we have to smear lamb’s blood on the threshold to spare our first born?
There are many definitions, perhaps so many that this biblical-like imperative has lost meaning. The confessant knows, of course that he/she/they are bad, bad, people who unknowingly hide racism in their hearts and who, by their very presence, are guilty, guilty, guilty.
To me, “structural racism” sounds like something that was hatched in a sociology class, lead by a ’60s-style professor yearning to inhale the smoke of burning draft cards.
And so it is. Searching out a definition free of social science gobbledygook, I came across this effort by something called “Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities POVERTY OUTCOMES Structural Racism” by Keith Lawrence, Aspen Institute on Community Change and Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center at UC Berkeley For the Race and Public Policy Conference, 2004.” Well, almost free of gobbledygook. Here it is, at some length:
Definition: Structural Racism in the U.S. is the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. It is a system of hierarchy and inequity, primarily characterized by white supremacy – the preferential treatment, privilege and power for white people at the expense of Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Arab and other racially oppressed people.
Scope: Structural Racism encompasses the entire system of white supremacy, diffused and infused in all aspects of society, including our history, culture, politics, economics and our entire social fabric. Structural Racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism (e.g. institutional, interpersonal, internalized, etc.) emerge from structural racism.
Indicators/Manifestations: The key indicators of structural racism are inequalities in power, access, opportunities, treatment, and policy impacts and outcomes, whether they are intentional or not. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually producing new, and re-producing old forms of racism.
To someone like me who was in college during the ’60s, the age of teach-ins and other brain washings, this sounds like a new version of the old and discredited idea of “collective guilt.” More specifically, it proposes that racism in society isn’t a matter of some people and institutions being racist, but everyone sinning. Knowingly or unknowingly, it’s a culture that’s built into every heart (see my discussion of racism being in our DNA) and every institution.
You prove this by examining every institution–government, corporate, church, civic, volunteer, bowling league–to spot signs of how they “disadvantage” black people. Same with individuals and classes of individuals. Then creating “constructs” that show how these disadvantages “intersect” to double, triple their impact and create “new and reproducing old forms of racism.” Like a stone thrown into a pond, it is an ever widening circle ripples that never calms but grows ever more energetically and destructively in wider and wider circles.
That’s a bold attempt at modeling a huge slice of reality. I’m suspicious of anything that claims it can explain reality with one hypothesis–which “systemic racism” is. A lot of “…isms” try to do that, communism and fascism being recent and obvious. The landscape is spotted with current examples, the idea that racism permeates every facet of society being the most prominent.
Reality doesn’t work like this. The long-sought “explanation of everything” remains far distant.
Yes, racism exists, but as attitudes and acts of individuals. So does the reality of poverty, exclusion and other injustices. Some of us have other explanations for them, such as the instability that unwinds families because of father absence. There is social science that demonstrates this, but I fear that here is a case that we don’t “follow the science” because it offends our ideological prejudices.
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