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“Systemic Racism”: a Popular Illusion 

These slavery and race theorists are correct about the existence of the stain but wrong about it being indelible.”

Slavery was commonly practiced throughout the world before and after the advent of Christianity. But some still blame the Catholic Church’s 15th century Doctrine of Discovery that claimed ownership of all discovered lands for the purpose of European colonization. The subjugation of native peoples then came in tow. However, since slavery had existed on every continent long before, placing the blame along these lines seems skewed against Christians, as well as being rather short-sighted.

The Papal Bull (Proclamation) “Inter Caetera” issued by Pope Alexander VI on May 4, 1493 gave European Christians a monopoly on the lands in the New World. It read: “…the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.”

This was the common practice of conquest done by nearly every tribe and society of mankind since antiquity. Slavery was part of conquest; it was systemic throughout the Old World. Today, some claim that the one-time existence of slavery has left behind an indelible stain of systemic racism on the United States.

These slavery and race theorists are correct about the existence of the stain but wrong about it being indelible. Despite the 620,000 Americans—equivalent to 6 million in today’s population—who died in action in the Civil War to end slavery, the defeated and resentful Southern states were the first population in the world to institute systemic racism in 1877, known as the ” Jim Crow” laws. If they could not have their slavery, they could still identify by race and exploit former slaves.

As a testament to the utter moral corruption of these laws, something similar was later adapted by the Nazi Party with the 1935 Nuremberg Laws and applied against Jews, with little change except for the ethnicity of the afflicted population. The Nazis had searched the world looking for a body of laws that targeted a certain race of people. Only Jim Crow articulated a workable, systemic racism.

In the case of both the United States’ Southern Democrats and Germany’s Nazis, these systems of racism did not endure. Yet the systemic racism theorists of today dismiss the historic struggle against slavery and the racism it generated. In 1215 A.D., with the adoption of the Magna Carta, the “Divine Right of Kings” over enslaved serfs began to be eroded. The abolition of slavery was then pursued over the next 400 years throughout Europe in a succession of attempts to establish the God-given and, therefore, inalienable rights of the sovereign individual. These efforts culminated with the Somersett Case in 1772, in which a fugitive slave was freed with the judgement that slavery did not exist under English common law. This created the legal foundation that would eventually recognize all men, very much including slaves, as sovereign individuals regardless of their race.

Not much is made, however, of the fact that Jamestown failed, with its slaves. All the while, other foundational American colonies established without slaves like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts thrived.

In America, after the Revolution and even before the United States was formally established, Pennsylvania passed legislation in 1780 abolishing slavery, and Massachusetts adopted a state Constitution that declared all men equal. Again, these facts are generally unknown or ignored by systemic race theorists, who presume an unbroken chain of racist oppression in America. Do they know that the first person shot and killed by the British in the Boston Massacre (and thus, arguably, the first casualty of the American Revolution) was Crispus Attucks, a free black man? Do they know that the black man pictured next to George Washington in the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware was Prince Whipple, who was born in Ghana, sent to America for his education, kidnapped, enslaved, and then freed during the Revolution? Do they know Whipple was specifically included in the painting because he was so admired by the patriotic soldiers who fought for America alongside him? Do they know he died a hero and free, leaving behind his free wife Dinah and two children?

Do the systemic racism promoters who recently published “The Few, the Proud, the White” in The New York Times accusing the Marine Corps of systemic racism know that one of the first acts of the American military, specifically the Marine Corps, was to attack and destroy the practice of slavery being conducted by North African Barbary pirates from the shores of Tripoli? Do they know this action is commemorated by the Marine Corps in their “Marine’s Hymn” and that racism has been banned by Executive Order 9981 in all branches of the military for 72 years now?

Yet, systemic racism’s proponents persist. They point to the establishment of Jamestown in 1619 that included slaves as proof that America was founded on (and became reliant on) slavery. In their view, slavery is the root cause of America’s wealth and prosperity. Not much is made, however, of the fact that Jamestown failed, with its slaves. All the while, other foundational American colonies established without slaves like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts thrived.

The remnants of slavery and systemic racism were federally outlawed by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and further abolished through the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s. Since then, all elements of systemic racism have been actively pursued and effectively eradicated through litigation. In fact, with the advent of affirmative action legislation, racial preference has been consistently shown to black Americans in some employment opportunities and in higher education. Americans elected a black president, Barack Obama, twice.

Today, there is no systemic racism in the United States, though many theoretical claims have recently been made relying on the discredited Marxist “oppressor and oppressed” theory. This says, in effect, that systemic racism must exist because black Americans are oppressed by aggressive police tactics, failing schools, and family disintegration. Systemic racism, it is argued, is the universal culprit for a range of oppressive social ills in communities now defined as populated by “people of color,” a phrase that, of course, draws upon the old Jim Crow label of “colored” people. It is the same Jim Crow segregation logic applied now ostensibly to benefit—instead of exploit—black and brown Americans. It is just as morally corrupt as the old Jim Crow laws and just as focused on attaining political power instead of fair governance.

Systemic racism in America today is a myth. It is more than a shame that actual civil rights history is not read today or is dismissed by the activists who promote this myth. They disgrace themselves as the modern inheritors of dividing people by race. They disregard the achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. They undermine their very own stated goals by judging people by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character.

Jim Proser is the author of Savage Messiah: How Dr. Jordan Peterson Is Saving Western Civilization and No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy: The Life of General James Mattis. 

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