Whether or not America is a racist country shouldn’t be a difficult question, especially when we live in an age where progressives continually repeat the mantra of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” for everything from police violence to coronavirus. Well, which is it?
Is America a racist country? It’s a pretty simple question, but don’t tell liberals that.
Sure, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were happy to answer, no, and then launch into a history of when we were racist. To their credit, they did actually say “no” though. Joe Biden was asked last week and he replied, “No. I don’t think the American people are racist, but I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education and health, in terms of opportunity. I don’t think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it.” His Vice President offered something very similar, “No. I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”
Unfortunately, this was about the best the Democrat Party could muster. From there, reactions ranged from attacking the messenger, Senator Tim Scott, the lone black Republican in the Senate, to attacking the question and then the entire country. Not surprisingly, these attacks were quite racist themselves. Twelve hours after his speech, #UncleTim was trending on Twitter, a racial slur on the old “Uncle Tom” phrase. The View’s Joy Behar insisted Senator Scott didn’t have the mental capacity to understand the depths of American racism. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel claimed Senator Scott wasn’t living in the real world, and instead was stuck in a “sensory deprivation egg.” The chair of the Lemar County Democrat Party, Gary O’Connor, called Senator Scott an “oreo,” digging deep for a word I haven’t heard in years, and then resigning, sort of because his resignation wasn’t accepted by Democrats.
What crime did Senator Scott commit to warrant these racially charged attacks?
First, he said “Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason. To be followed around a store while I’m shopping. I remember, every morning, at the kitchen table, my grandfather would have the newspaper in his hands. Later, I realized he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example. I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called ‘Uncle Tom’ and the N-word — by ‘progressives’! By liberals! Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time. Believe me, I know our healing is not finished.”
This seems a pretty reasonable position that most fair minded Americans would agree with. I don’t know anyone who believes America, or any country, for that matter is entirely free from racism or racial issues, or that racism has not had an effect on the American experience. The difference is in the degree, how the root causes have changed over time, and what we can do about it, more on those items in a moment.
In the meantime, Senator Scott proceeded to commit a cardinal sin among the woke when he declared, “A hundred years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic — and if they looked a certain way, they were inferior. Today, kids again are being taught that the color of their skin defines them — and if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress. By doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal. You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”
This, coming from a black man in 2021 America, cannot be allowed to stand, at least according to progressives. In addition to the smears, liberal pundits sprung into action to obscure and obfuscate. After declaring that Tim Scott’s role was only as “human shield against accusations of racism” and that “Scott and other Black conservatives fulfill many white racists’ American Dream of compliant, sycophantic, loyal and submissive Black people,” Chauncey Devega, a political writer for Salon.com, wrote that his claims were “internally incoherent” and, in fact, he provided “clear evidence” that America is a racist country.
This clear evidence idea was echoed by Mona Chalabi, writing for The Guardian. She claimed “Datasets consistently show racial disparities, from the healthcare system to the criminal justice system. Those gaps are wide and persistent.” She continues to cite a litany of racism “from the cradle to the grave” including low birthweight, higher poverty rate, lower graduation rate, and poorer job prospects. Two points should be mentioned here: First, when did we start assuming that correlation was causation and that the only factor that could possibly contribute to these disparities is rampant, unchecked racism?
Second, repeatedly chanting “wide and persistent” doesn’t make it so. For example, 79% of black children complete high school compared to 89% of white children. That’s measurable and concerning of course, but a 10% differential is hardly insurmountable. Another disparity Ms. Chalabi notes is health insurance, only 5% of white people lack it compared to 10% of black people. Again, measurable and concerning, but the scale of the differential isn’t compatible with the claim. One would think “systemic” racism would be producing far greater disparities. I don’t say that to minimize the experience of people affected by these disparities, only to point out the obvious: In a truly racist country, disparities are massive and legally enforced, ask the Uighurs in China if you don’t believe me.
Regardless of the size of any disparity the logical conclusion of this line of thinking is contained in a piece for The Grio by Preston Mitchum who declares that the “United States is, was, and always will be a racist country.” Mr. Mitchum begins by attacking Vice President Kamala Harris for not going far enough, claiming her comments “about race and racism in America” were “disingenuous and harmful.” Mr. Mitchum then rephrases the question, “So the question becomes: if racism is not responsible for the continued degradation of and positionality of Black and Brown Americans, then what is? And if we can acknowledge white supremacist institutions, then, unless the ether, who holds onto it?”
He continues to attribute the death of every Black person in America, including Ma’Khia Bryant who died wielding a knife and Mike Brown who died attacking a police officer, to racism — along with everything else including COVID-19 disparities. For Mr. Mitchum, everything is racial up until he lets slip his real goal at the end of the article: “Imagine if people were made to capitulate to us. Imagine.”
Yes, the only way to end racism in America is to put black people in charge. Note that this is the exact kind of discriminatory thinking that Senator Scott called out in his speech. “It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination.” This is what I along with millions of my fellow Americans believe, but that thinking cannot be allowed to stand on its own, which brings us back to Ms. Devega. She is clearly in Mr. Mitchum’s camp, but because most fair minded people find the idea of radical reverse discrimination, literally demonizing children for the crime of just being born, repugnant she needs to rely on an artful dodge.
“Scott and his allies are wily. He set an obvious trap for the Democrats, one that America’s mainstream news media was eager to help facilitate. As they so often do, the Democrats blundered into it.” What is this nefarious trap? Merely to ask people to respond to the basic question of whether America is a racist country or not. I’m serious, Ms. Devega writes, “Answering the ludicrous question ‘Is America a racist country?’ is now a gauntlet that the American news media is forcing prominent Democrats to run through.” Not content with “ludicrous,” she continues to harangue the question as “dunderheaded,” “tainted,” “empty patriotism,” and a product of “right wing authoritarians.”
All this over a simple, straightforward, obvious question. Of course, none of what she says has any real merit, it’s all blather to obfuscate the fact that there is no difference between “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” and saying the country is racist. They are equivalent. There is no other way around it. If the system is racist, how is the country not racist? If the racist system is run by white supremacists, how is the country not racist?
Mr. Mitchum, to his odd credit, comes out and says it, others try to hide their real claims. Further, if you accept that thinking, the question obviously becomes what to do about it. Mr. Mitchum wants everyone to capitulate to him. I say him specifically because Senator Scott is also black and I find it unlikely Mr. Mitchum wants anything to do with that. Ms. Devega and others want to see radical changes in every aspect of American governance and way of life. The point here is simple: If you believe America is inherently racist, there is precious little reason to preserve any of it, from our founding documents, to our revered heroes, to our institutions, to any of our traditions. There can be no mistake that eliminating all of that is the obvious goal.
If you believe, however, that America is an imperfect country rather than an irredeemable one, then you can consider how to right wrongs within the system itself and also whether any disparity might have other causal factors. This of course cannot be accepted. Though the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution make no reference to race, indeed have been used to enhance equality by generations of civil rights activists, and discrimation has been outlawed since the passing of the Civil Rights Act over 50 years ago, the notion that we are a nation that has expunged racism from our laws and institutions is unacceptable.
This notion is the seemingly uncrossable cavern between those like Senator Scott and myself and those like Mr. Mitchum and Ms. Devega. I believe that the framework of the country is inherently race neutral, however it might have been interpreted by the losing side in a war over 150 years ago, and that explicit racism is illegal and has been for generations.
Therefore, I conclude that the disparities we see today are the result of a far more complex combination of factors than simple racism. This doesn’t preclude the fact that some people might still be racists or that some organization somewhere might follow racist practices. I take it as fact that somewhere in the world someone is doing something awful to someone else. We should find them wherever possible and root them out. What it does preclude is the notion that there is something fundamentally wrong with America, that there is a “systemic” problem caused by the spectre of “white supremacy.”
This is the real divide currently facing the country, between those who believe we have problems that can be solved within the country itself and those who believe the country suffers from an incurable illness. Hence, Tim Scott prompted the appropriate question that everyone should answer clearly: Is America a racist country or not? Until the public provides a definitive answer, there will be no progress on these issues.