In an effort to understand things that I may be getting wrong, I am more than happy to engage in civil discussions with people who have a differing viewpoint. To wit: recently I was passed this article, which while it contained some interesting criticism of police practices, had this paragraph defining the term “systemic racism” in a way that is absolutely bonkers:
Of particular concern to some on the right is the term “systemic racism,” often wrongly interpreted as an accusation that everyone in the system is racist. In fact, systemic racism means almost the opposite. It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them.
This is nuts! No matter the intention of the people involved, what matters are the outcomes? This isn’t a concern “some on the right” have, it’s a concern to anybody with a shred of both logic and a sense of fairness.
Think about it: this definition can be, and is, twisted to accuse people of the worst thing in the world anybody in 21st century America can be: racist. Leaving aside the issue of police shootings and incarceration rates, let’s play this out.
By this insidious definition, America’s justice system is systemically racist because blacks are disproportionally incarcerated. The answer is never, of course, to look at whether there is a reason for this besides the theory that the criminal justice system is skewed against them. Maybe it is! But maybe there are other explanations for this.
This raises a corollary point, which is that hard statistics that show certain things are dismissed as somehow faulty or doctored by people who don’t personally like the outcome they point to. I will leave it at that because (a) this post isn’t about the criminal justice system per se, and (b) if you think I want to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, you’re dreaming.
Back to the issue at hand: the answer always seems to be “Tweak the system to ensure that the outcome reflects the proportion of people that reflects the demographics of society at large.” Leaving aside the fact that this issue only matters in a multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial, multireligious, multilingual non-society like ours, would this mean that the criminal justice system is actually incarcerating actual criminals–the ostensible point of having a criminal justice system–or does the system just exist to make certain groups feel better about themselves by not being disproportionately represented?
This is not a rhetorical question. It is painfully obvious that the latter answer is true, at least for outcomes that are generally agreed to be negative, e.g., being in jail. Oh, but wait, that’s negative outcomes only for certain groups. If other groups are disproportionally, I don’t know, committing suicide and dying other deaths of despair, that’s okay. For reasons.
Nobody wants to talk about stuff like this. Nobody wants to admit that there may be underlying reasons for certain outcomes that have nothing to do with racism. Because this wacko definition of “systemic racism” takes inteiton out of the equation.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this definition is utterly mad, especially since the consequences of being branded with the “R” word (if you are of a certain chromatic disposition, that is) are so brutal.
Anyway, let’s think of other contexts this definition can be applied to:
- Does this mean that the NBA, the MLB, the NFL are systemically racist?
- Does this mean that universities, particularly the top ones like the Ivy Leagues, are racist?
- Does this mean that the ownership of media companies or big tech is racist?
- Does this mean that the ownership of top Wall Street financial firms is racist?
- Does this mean that banks are racist?
- Does this mean that public schools are racsit?
Conventional mainstream wisdom says “No” for the first. It’s a meritocracy! Clearly! Why? The dirty secret nobody wants to talk about is because the preferred groups are overrepresented. It also says “No” for the third, fourth, and fifth institutions and systems on our list. And most people are rightfully fine with that. Some groups are better at certain things than others. However, this doesn’t extend to the ownership of teams in these sports leagues. No, that is racist.
Here’s the kicker, the real taboo, the third rail: this idea that certain groups are seemingly better at certain things than others also means that some groups may be worse at certain things than others, or less-harshly, not as good. This is why only one particular group at top universities is singled out as being unfairly overrepresented and actively discriminated against despite being a bigger proportion of the American population than another group overrepresented at top universities that nobody seems to take issue with.
The answer, naturally, is to lower standards. It’s the American way! This has had outcomes that are predictable to anybody who is paying attention–minority wars are real.
Lowering standards never ends well, whether it’s academic standards or physical standards or behavioral standards.
No alternative explanations are ever given for this, and logic is tortured and abused by people who graduated from many of these top universities to convince you that “systemic racism”–that is, the outcome itself–is the reason, and that the outcome itself is prima facie evidence of the racism inherent in the system.
Back to the criminal justice system: maybe there are other systems at play producing these negative outcomes other than the criminal justice system. Who knows? We’re not allowed to talk about them. But the prevailing theory would have us believe that innocent members of certain groups are endlessly railroaded by the system. For reasons.
Of course, this gets extended to any -ism. Not enough female engineers or Navy Seals? Clearly these systems are sexist!
I’m continually shocked by my capacity to continually be shocked, but I can’t help myself: it’s astonishing how so many smart and well-meaning people actually buy this junk.
Outcomes are deemed “good” if the ruling class decrees it so.
Here is the most depressing part of this all: things that might actually help solve whatever problems we’re trying to solve never get addressed. Is this just to spare certain groups’ feelings? Is this just to assuage the weird guilt on the part of those who have taken it upon themselves to be society’s saviors?
I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that problems get worse and worse, and problems are made worse, by completely bizarre theories and explanations that are continually shoved down our throats like the one I’ve highlighted in this post.
If a system is producing sub-optimal outcomes, the system very well may be at fault. But maybe it’s not. Maybe there are alternate explanations. We do ourselves no favor as a society by ignoring them.
Don’t ignore my books. The only thing they are systemic is systemically awesome.