Wednesday, September 23, 2020

What is systemic racism, anyway?

Andrew Koppelman

Is there even such a thing as systemic racism?  Some argue that the idea makes no sense.  The term does need clarification, but it points at an undeniable reality. 

Harvard Prof. Harvey Mansfield writes in the Wall Street Journal that the phrase incoherently “describes a society that is so little racist that no one can respectably advocate racism, yet so much racist that every part of it is soaked with racism,” leaving us with “the paradox of a racist society without racists.”  Matthew Franck similarly argues at Public Discourse that the term connotes “a conspiracy theory with no conspirators, an unfalsifiable, undeniable thesis.”  Attributing racism to an entire economic and social system ends up blaming everyone and no one, and provides cover for the few actual racists: “If everyone in general but no one in particular is to blame, the few remaining actual racists among us are let off the hook.”  Others say the same. 

These critiques are overstated. 

I explain in a new piece at USA Today, here

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