The Corner

Culture

The ‘Systemic Racism’ Canard

A man yells at a line of police officers in New York, July 15, 2020. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

The claim that America’s awash in systemic racism is made and repeated as unassailable fact. It’s repeated casually, as if everyone concedes its veracity.

The term is ubiquitous in news and social media. Politicians invoke it daily, if not hourly. Corporations spend upwards of $10,000 an hour for lessons on how to eliminate their own purported systemic, institutional racism. Lately, it seems as if schools and colleges are devoted to teaching little else.

It’s now axiomatic that systemic, structural, or institutional racism accounts for almost all disparities between the races, whether in educational achievement, employment rates, income gaps, crime rates, or health. Individual behavior, family structure, perverse governmental policies, and culture have little or nothing to do with such disparities, and to contend otherwise is itself a manifestation of systemic racism — a convenient and politically expedient canard.

The allegation of pervasive systemic racism, as that term is used by politicians, media, academics, and woke mobs, is not merely false — it’s a lie. Almost everyone knows it but few are willing to say it for fear of being labeled racist, getting canceled, and/or becoming unemployed. So the lie persists, grows, and metastasizes.

In reality, a massive, multi-billion-dollar apparatus exists to identify and eliminate systemic, structural, institutional, and individual discrimination. That apparatus has existed for more than half a century and continues to expand. It consists of, inter alia, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Education, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the FBI, state civil-rights commissions, local human-rights commissions, state attorneys general, and tens of thousands of investigators, enforcement and compliance officers, local prosecutors, and private attorneys who enforce a sprawling framework of civil-rights and equal-opportunity laws. These laws include, but are not limited to, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Sections 1981, 1982, and 1983 of the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1871, the 14th Amendment, the 15th Amendment, the Fair Housing Act, the Voting Rights Act, and thousands of state and local equal-opportunity and anti-discrimination laws. This mammoth regime doesn’t even include the tens of thousands of human-resource officers and diversity and inclusion personnel who guard against systemic/structural racism within their respective institutions.

Indeed, in large part because of this massive framework, there is considerable systemic racism, but going in the direction opposite what is conventionally claimed.

For more than half a century, college-admissions offices have discriminated against whites in favor of blacks. More recently, the discrimination has expanded in favor of Hispanics and to disfavor Asians.

The discrimination is pervasive and profound. At some schools, black applicants are up to 500 times more likely to be admitted than similarly situated white comparators. A similar dynamic prevails in the workplace. Corporations and law firms compete furiously to get and to retain black and Hispanic employees whose objective qualifications are lower than those of whites and Asians. Employers go through exhaustive gymnastics to avoid disciplining or discharging underperforming minority employees.

The regnant claim that blacks are disproportionately killed by cops also is false. Blacks are actually underrepresented in police shootings based on black overrepresentation in crime. For example, while blacks are twice as likely as whites to be shot by cops, blacks are nearly seven times more likely than whites to commit murder.

Blacks are disproportionately killed by other blacks. Consider, for example, data from the FBI Uniform Crime report. In 2018, 2,925 blacks were murdered. Where the identities of the victims and murderers were immediately known, 2,600 blacks killed other blacks. In 2019, 13 unarmed blacks were fatally shot by cops.

“Racial disparity” has morphed almost imperceptibly into racism. That’s a significant — and from a public-policy perspective, dangerous — cheat. In 2018, 1,354,313 men were incarcerated in state and federal prisons. In contrast, only 110,845 women were incarcerated. If racial disparities are proof of systemic racism, then the disparity in incarceration rates must be proof of systemic sexism in the penal system. So for purposes of “equity,” more than a million male prisoners should be released.

Whenever you hear the terms systemic/structural/institutional racism, white privilege, implicit bias, disparity, equity, intersectionality, and anti-racism, there’s a fair probability that imbecility, mendacity, and mischief will follow. And, invariably, political opportunism.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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