Traced as far back as ancient Greece and the philosopher Aristotle, a question that has plagued man is “which came first – the chicken or the egg?” Although Aristotle never answered the query, a fifth-century Roman scholar, Macrobius, wrote while people may ask the question in jest, “the point should be regarded as one of importance.” In the aftermath of Sen. Tim Scott’s rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s address to Congress last month, a similar question concerning “racism” and “systemic racism” needs to be asked and answered, as it, too, is “one of importance.”
Biden unabashedly claims America suffers from systemic racism. During his April 29 speech before Congress, he hit this theme again. In his rebuttal to Biden, Scott – the only black Republican in the U.S. Senate – left no doubt he disagrees with the claim.
The liberal, white host of “The View,” Joy Behar, subsequently lectured Scott. She suggests he fails to “understand” what “systemic racism” means. But her statement and subsequent comments by Democratic leaders suggest Behar fails to understand.
Keeping in mind Behar often goes off half-cocked with her very opinionated views, her schtick this time was to explain – doing so with examples – that systemic racism relates to housing, education and other factors. Whitesplaining, she added, “The fact that Tim Scott cannot acknowledge this is appalling. How can you go out there and say that when you just said two minutes ago that you were the object and the victim of discrimination? And then, he says this is not a racist country. At least acknowledge that there is systemic racism. That’s what I wanted to hear from him, and he didn’t say it.”
Behar should have defined “racism” and “systemic racism” at the outset.
Racism is “the inability or refusal to recognize the rights, needs, dignity, or value of people of particular races or geographical origins. More widely, the devaluation of various traits of character or intelligence as ‘typical’ of particular peoples.”
Examples of racism clearly are demonstrated by member groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Black Lives Matter – both refusing to embrace all human life as equal.
Systemic racism is defined as “policies and practices that exist throughout a whole society or organization, and that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race.”
Examples of systemic racism were created by a series of bills in the 1980s and 1990s that transformed the criminal justice system, hurting America’s black communities. One bill – the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 – was particularly tough on blacks and, interestingly, was promoted by then Sen. Joe Biden. During his term, President Donald Trump sought to erase such systemic racism.
Obviously, it was racism that first plagued America, becoming the impetus for incorporating that racism into society. Systemic racism was implanted into society in the same way a computer programmer sets parameters of a software program he has developed. A racist programmer translates into a systemically racist policy or practice.
Over the centuries, however, and more particularly in the late 20th century, America was a nation in transition concerning its human-equality views. World War II and the horrific effort of Naziism to eradicate Jews was a wake-up call. So much so that the first official act of the newly formed United Nations was to pass a resolution recognizing the equality of all human life–the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Passing the resolution – which all member nations approved saved for one abstention by Saudi Arabia – was the first step in undermining global hatred; getting people to accept it was the next.
In America, this transition involved the 1960s civil rights movement to focus the spotlight on staunch segregationist politicians such as Alabama’s four term Democrat Gov. George Wallace. His political party affiliation came as no surprise as Democrats had helped give rise to the KKK in 1865, which then quickly spread throughout the Southern states.
As Democrats’ racism and systemic racism sought to keep blacks out of political office, Republicans were electing the first blacks to the Senate (2) and representatives (21) to the House. Meanwhile, the KKK was gaining influence within the Democratic Party so as by the time of the 1924 Democratic National Convention, it had become the most powerful bloc in that party. Appropriately, the 1960s civil rights movement helped toss Wallace and his Neanderthal-like thinking ilk into history’s dustbin. Based on the outrageous claims of today’s Democratic leadership, Americans tend to ignore the reality Republicans historically were fighting in the trenches for black equality long before the 1960s movement gave the fight wings.
Interestingly, we have seen in the aftermath of Scott’s rebuttal speech remnants of racial bigotry still remain in the Democratic Party. The Lamar County, Texas, Democratic Party chair, Gary O’Connor, who is white, called Scott an “oreo.” Despite a chorus of Republican voices calling for O’Connor to resign, while one could hear a pin drop among Democrats, he finally offered his resignation. Also met with silence by Democrats were liberal comments calling Scott an “Uncle Tim.” Unsurprisingly, the only time Democrats voiced a concern was to reject O’Connor’s resignation.
The vast majority of Americans have transitioned to racial equality for all – as Scott claimed in his rebuttal and was subsequently stated by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. We are not a racist country. More so than any other nation, we have spent decades putting a racist past behind us. Because that previous racist history resulted in systemic racism, the task since the civil rights movement has been to weed it out, wherever found. This is what a non-racist country does.
It is important the U.S. government, in looking to ensure systemic racism is weeded out, remain fair in doing so. But Biden, with his COVID relief plan, has failed to do so, excluding whites from compensation provided to black farmers.
While racism in America will never be fully eradicated as both white and black extremists will keep it alive, Scott was dead right to say we are not a racist nation. He was also right not to say we are systemically racist. If one accepts its definition above, to so qualify we must have “policies and practices that exist throughout a whole society or organization.” Such is not the case in the United States.
While some systemic racism “leftovers” may remain from previous eras, Democrats and Republicans both should devote their efforts to eradicating them. Doing so would give us the more perfect union for which we will always strive.
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