By Fraser Turnbull
We’ve all heard it. At a dinner, a cookout or in an office. “There is no such thing a systemic racism.” Those attempting to be contrarian love to tout that line of thinking as a means of being quasi-intellectual, almost showing off their ability to fit out.
Remarkably, Tim Scott, the African American- Republican Senator, recently stated, “American is not a racist country”. I will never meet Tim Scott, but if I were ever able to engage with the good Senator from Georgia, I do believe I would have 3 or 4 very succinct questions for him to answer.
When, exactly, did America stop being a racist country? Was it at the banishment of slavery? Was it during Reconstruction? Perhaps it ended with Jim Crow, or the Voting Rights Act? If America has grown past its systemic racism on a spectrum of time, I’d love to know when it crossed that threshold.
According to the non-profit EdBuild, predominantly white schools receive roughly $2300 more per student funding than minority dominated schools. That disparity can’t simply be explained away with white-flight or differences in local tax bases that have a history rooted in red-lining and systemized ghettoization. The economic and educational system has failed to adequately remedy the problem. The system.
How does one address racial disparities in the student loan disaster? According to the Brookings Institute, “Differences in interest accrual and graduate school borrowing lead to black graduates holding nearly $53,000 more in student loan debt four years after graduation”. The United States has a student loan crisis. In a nation with no racism, how can a crisis and disparity as large as that exist.
If Senator Scott wants a prime example of a system that has obvious racial issues, take the military. Four branches are in place to protect the nation. They are rife with racial incidents, but let’s boil it down to numbers even Mr. Scott must acknowledge; African American men make up 17% of the military, but only 8% of officers. It is a system like no other and has a racial divide. Therefore, it has a problem with systemic racism.
A first-year liberal arts students can simply research one hundred more statistically based flaws in “the system.” No one on the right side of the argument is making the case that there is a smoke- filled star chamber secretly controlling the systems and tilting the table against minorities. Save that for the movies. Rather, the racism is baked into the cake of historical decisions- some micro and many macro- that have resulted in a system that moves like the giant organism it is.
Economic, educational, and political systems are not made of steel. They are built from philosophical concrete- a cement that can erode and be chipped away at. It will take a long time- too long by progressive standards, to knock that system to rubble. The promise to “make a more perfect union”, does not profess constitutional absolutism. It is a promise to make it more perfect, and that never stops. The promise of America is on full display. If the United States is to survive another decade, let alone a century, the system built of concrete must give way to one without such egregious and racially based disparities.
Mr. Scott and those that deny systemic racism do so at the peril of the very fabric that holds American democracy intact.