Does systemic racism exist in the US today?


Fact Box

  • ‘Racism’ is defined as “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” and also “behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief: racial discrimination or prejudice.”
  • ‘Systemic racism’ is defined as “Discrimination or unequal treatment on the basis of membership in a particular ethnic group (typically one that is a minority or marginalized), arising from systems, structures, or expectations that have become established within society or an institution.”
  • Out of the 10-12 million African slaves imported to the New World between the 16-19th centuries, only 388,000 were sold to the American colonies. Following England and France, America abolished slavery in 1865, over 150 years ago. In 2021, nearly 10 million Africans are still enslaved in Africa. 
  • A July 2020 NBC/Wall Street Journal survey interviewing voters found that 56%, the majority, see American society as racist. 40% disagree.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (D.I.E.) and current ‘antiracism’ training is a lucrative business. Author/speakers like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X Kendi are paid thousands to speak on these topics and media moguls like Jack Dorsey donate millions to schools and these speakers to continue their research.

Jay (Yes)

Racism has existed in America since its inception (slavery, Jim Crow laws), and despite fighting and winning a war that freed the slaves and passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, systemic racism still exists in America. Likewise, though Americans elected and then reelected the first Black president in history, racism has always been part of our culture. In fact, Obama and his family endured savage racists attacks, many from the Tea Party wing of the Republican party.

However, only recently have White supremacists felt emboldened enough to march in Charlottesville, hold rallies in major American cities, and form militias all intended to demonize minorities and 'Make America Great Again.' While critics might call this evidence 'anecdotal,' here are some brief facts that point to the persistence of systemic racism in America:

Criminal Justice: Blacks make up 13% of the US population yet account for 40% of the prison population.

Education: Black students are three times more likely to be suspended than white students for similar infractions and, if charged with a crime, are 18 times more likely than White kids to be tried as adults.

Employment - Black unemployment has been double the rate of White unemployment over the past 60 years.

Healthcare: Quality healthcare is far less available to Blacks than to Whites, even in similar socio-economic environments. A 2012 study found that a majority of doctors held 'unconscious racial bias towards Black patients.'

Wealth: For every $100 of earned income by White families, Black families earn $57.30. According to one study, White American's own nearly 90% of the nation's wealth, and that number is rising.

Systemic racism exists to this day in America. It causes widespread economic, social, physical, and psychological damage and must be dismantled.

Bill (No)

There is no evidence to support the assertion that systemic racism exists in the US. It's fallacious to conclude that unequal outcomes among minorities are a result of systemic racism. Minorities have equal access to public education; there are no race-based barriers existing today. Yet, educational attainment differs widely among ethnic groups. For example, Asians achieve bachelor's degrees at nearly twice the rate of Blacks. This demonstrates that there is no inherent bias against educational attainment of minorities. 

Economic disparity among ethnic groups is often cited as evidence of systemic racism. Three key factors that can determine one's economic prospects are avoiding out-of-wedlock childbirths, attaining education, and working a full-time job. Single mothers are nearly six times more likely to be poor than married couples (34% to 6%). The troubling statistic for unwed births to Black women is seven out of ten. By comparison, the rate for Asians is one out of ten. Combine this with the disparity in college achievement noted above (bachelor's degree holders earn 50% more than high school diploma holders), and it's easy to see why Asians are doing demonstratively better economically than Blacks.

Finally, minority incarceration rates are frequently offered as proof of systemic racism in our justice system. However, one does not arbitrarily get convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. Prison is the result of a deliberate act; a conscious decision to break society's laws. Blacks outnumber Asians in the US population 2.3 to 1, yet are imprisoned at a rate 23 times higher than Asians. Evidence shows how the US is one of the freest, most accepting societies the world has ever seen, where people are allowed to make decisions. Our problem lies in cultural/behavioral differences, not systemic racism.

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