“The reason, as we will shortly see, that it is fair to characterize systemic racism as a nutty and sweeping conspiracy theory is that racism is, again and again, simply assumed to be the universal, underlying, unitary cause of multifarious phenomena for which other, more parsimonious, accurate, and complex explanations are blithely ignored or dismissed.”
“[W]e all start with a profound and powerful tendency to believe that what we see repeated everywhere must be true. The beginning of wisdom…is to recognize this as a fundamental illusion. The most important truths tend, on the contrary, to be rare and secret, covered over by what is repeated everywhere.” – Arthur M. Melzer
t is, by now, a commonplace occurrence for prominent figures on the Right to be tarred with the charge of supporting one or more ideas labeled as “conspiracy theories,” whether QAnon, Pizzagate; the Great Replacement; climate change denialism; Cultural Marxism; wildfire-starting Jewish space lasers; the Hunter Biden laptop controversy and the larger Biden-Ukraine shenanigans linked to it; the claim that the 2020 election was stolen through either outright fraud or just due to Big Media’s and Big Tech’s fat thumbs on the scale; that the media is generally anti-conservative or engages in an anti-conservative censorship and disinformation campaign involving government collusion, deplatforming, blacklists, and shadow-banning; any number of claims about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), whether that it was a “plandemic,” that it was the result of a leak from a lab linked to gain-of-function research supported by Anthony Fauci, that the vaccines are infused with Bill Gates’ microchips, or that the vaccines have significant, serious side effects and are not actually especially safe or particularly effective. I will leave it to each individual reader to decide which of the items on this list are true (which, of course, some are), which are utterly loony conspiracy theories (yes, there are some of those here as well), and which fall somewhere in between these poles. My focus here is different. While former President Donald Trump’s election fraud claim is often called the “Big Lie” by some, what truly deserves that moniker, coined in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, is the lie that has been repeated so often and been spread so far and wide by every establishment media outlet, educational institution, pandering politico, and multinational corporation that its total topsy-turviness has become invisible to us. I am speaking, naturally, of “systemic racism.”
With the welling up of open anti-Semitism on most elite college campuses in the United States and the exposure of Harvard University’s elevation to its vaunted presidency of an unqualified, serial plagiarist Claudine Gay as a blatant affirmative action hire, the toxic DEI empire that has so thoroughly infiltrated our institutions finally has been subjected to some much-needed mainstream scrutiny. But after Gay was finally ousted long after her white peer, former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, was removed after their disastrous congressional testimony concerning such campus anti-Semitism, Gay and her backers still had the temerity to claim that her race was the cause of her downfall—rather than, as is obvious to most fair-minded observers, the principal reason for her undeserved and rapid ascent through the Harvard bureaucracy. But why do such topsy-turvy accusations of racism still have any traction whatsoever? Surely, it is because the nutty idea that systemic racism continues to run wild in America has been seeded in all of our minds.
If you swim around, as I do, in the malodorous, coastal urban cesspool in which a self-replicating bacterial culture of credentialed, “educated” elites spends its time re-doubling its own narrow prejudices and smugly dismissing all those who refuse to conform, a fun party game (but only for the most adventurous microbial researchers) might be to try floating the idea that systemic racism does not exist and then watching the stagnant waters begin to roil, boil, and bubble into a witch’s cauldron in which you will become the object of a ritualized exorcism. These people—repeatedly shown by research to be the most closed-minded and intolerant among us—implicitly believe that the fact that their parents’ wealth got them admitted to an Ivy League university (through legacy admission status, outside enrichment classes, internships at the prestigious institutions of their parents’ college chums, or the opportunity to take the SAT five times over while being mentored by private tutors and The Princeton Review for each successive go-round) means their gold-fringed diploma doubles as a permanent “SmartPass” sufficient to speed through every toll, without ever needing to learn how to navigate deftly through the local roads along the periphery. The education of such individuals, in other words, ended once their graduation caps got tossed in the air, and the rest of their lives entail coasting on intellectual fumes while hearing endless echoes of long-gone hip-hip-hoorays ring out from their similarly situated comrades. Their idea of doing research is paging through The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Slate or The Sunday Times, listening to the Ezra Klein Show, The Daily, or the shrill, screeching women of NPR and confirming and deepening their insights during dinner parties in which their like-minded peers second their notions and add in much-needed supplements from issues and episodes missed while our principal protagonists were eco-touring the jungles of Costa Rica. And that being that, their learnin’s all done, and they can kick back and laugh away with Colbert and Kimmel at the stars-n’-stripes-sportin’, gun-totin’, Trump-lovin’ hillbillies of Red America. But we will not stop where they stop. We are going to dig a little deeper.
As Real Racism Fades Away, “Systemic Racism” Takes the Stage
Most people have very short memories, at least for cultural phenomena wherein they want to find themselves at the leading edge rather than scrambling to catch up through a trailing miasma of kicked-up dust. They tend to forget, therefore, just how recently the runaway meme going by names like “systemic racism,” “institutional racism,” and “structural racism” became a thing. Although the idea was devised in a 1967 book by Stokley Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, it was not until decades later that it gained a foothold in the proliferating racial grievance departments and social sciences of academia. But the concept did not hit the radar of even the “educated” set of which I drew a sketch above until the #BLM riots of Ferguson, Missouri in 2015 and, in many cases, not until the nationwide George Floyd #BLM riots of the summer of 2020.
The timing is noteworthy. On the one hand, absent such ideas circulating in our ether, and notwithstanding a very few, isolated incidents of any significance spurred by true racial animus, our nation has never seen less anti-black racism than we do today (the same being true of 2015 or 2020). On the other hand—between diversity consultants, DEI officers and administrators and all those race-obsessed maniacs, whether journalists paid to produce alarmist, sensationalized clickbait, or those individuals subsisting off of academic sinecures in which peddling race-hatred and divisiveness constitutes a job description—we have never in our history had more people whose very livelihoods are dependent on the continued existence of anti-black racism. And, to quote Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” With our first black President’s ascension to the Oval Office, a living symbol of the final triumph of the 1960s Civil Rights Era’s color-blind dream and, as prominent commentators observed, the dawning of a post-racial America, the choice these professional race-hustlers faced was either to realize that they were going the way of the dinosaurs, having spent years foolishly developing their expertise in a dying discipline, or else to continue plowing ahead as though nothing had changed and, like Don Quixote, imagine their enemies into being, tilting at back-country windmills as though they were burning crosses, with every pale-skinned citizen’s closet potentially holding its share of noosed black skeletons and hastily folded white robes and hoods.
The Junk Science of “Implicit Bias” Steps in to Fill the Racism Void
This is why, instead of seeing a stark dialing down on the claims of racism in our midst, as we might have expected, we saw seemingly familiar words redefined. Our racial vocabulary became histrionic. Because real racism in the old, common sense of the term was now hardly anywhere to be found, the first move had to be to tell us to stop believing our lying eyes; racism—or rather, “racism”—was, in fact, hiding in plain sight everywhere around us. To accomplish the feat of mass hypnosis it took to get us to buy such obvious crockery, the concept of “implicit” or “unconscious” bias was trotted out. We were subjected to fun, free, Harvard University-pedigreed implicit bias tests purporting to prove that our sinister anti-black society had instilled in nearly all of us, black people included, deep-seated negative associations with black people.
Consistent with other Harvard researchers’ record of deception and corruption, the tests were total and utter junk science. Their most glaring problem, among many others, is that they simply did not predict any real-world outcomes. Someone testing high in implicit bias against black people was not significantly more likely to act in ways that exhibited such bias in the real world. Other tests, moreover, showed implicit bias against white people. In one such test, participants, while denying that racial considerations affected the outcome, chose a hypothetical black applicant with a higher GPA over a white student with a more demanding course load, claiming GPA was more important, but chose a hypothetical black applicant with a more demanding course load over a white applicant with a higher GPA, this time stressing the importance of tougher classes. In another test, people were asked whether they would sacrifice one innocent man to save the lives of a hundred. The innocent person was given either a stereotypical black name or a stereotypical white name. Conservatives were equally likely to sacrifice the innocent victim, regardless of race, but liberals were more likely to want to sacrifice the stereotypically white-named innocent man. They denied that race had anything to do with their choice. While we do not know whether such biases will translate to real-world behavior when it comes to human sacrifice, when it comes to university admissions, we have more than a little reason to suspect that the bias in favor of black applicants that test subjects exhibited is not merely theoretical.
But imagine, even, that those Harvard implicit bias tests were reliable and predictive of real-world outcomes. What exactly would this prove? Would we have learned something we did not know? When black people in the United States are disproportionately poor and uneducated and vastly overrepresented among criminals (more on all of this below), who exactly is supposed to be surprised that many of us might have negative biases against black people? If white dogs lick you and black dogs bite you much of the time you go outside, sure, you will develop some biases. But what exactly is the significance of that? Evolution turned us into pattern-recognition machines especially responsive to danger, so if we want to alter our biases, we need to alter the patterns we are recognizing, viz., create a society where black people in the United States are no longer disproportionately poor and uneducated or vastly overrepresented among criminals. Upbraiding people about how biased, albeit rationally biased, they are, on the other hand, is not going to do one damned bit of good—though it will probably do a bang-up job in getting lots of people still more angry and irritated at one another.
From Color-Blindness to Race-Conscious Double-Standards
Having transformed our collective image of a racist from the dying-breed, unreconstructed, toothless, deep-South segregationist who peppers complaints about poor customer service with a gratuitous smattering of n-words to, suddenly, the well-meaning, soft-spoken IT professional next door who possibly has, along with ourselves and everyone else we know, an unconscious, implicit, somewhat negative image of black Americans, the new “anti-racists,” for their next move, needed also to effect a sea change in the kinds of attitudes and behaviors that would henceforth be considered racist. Although the maneuver they deployed was a shockingly bold gambit, entailing, as it did, a 180-degree reversal of the color-blind creed in which we had been dutifully indoctrinated ever since Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech had captured the Zeitgeist in 1963, in another sense the transition from race-blindness back to race-consciousness was a natural outgrowth of the fact that entire academic departments were now devoted to the study of race. Postcolonial theorists and critical race theorists—people like Gayatri Spivak, with her concept of “strategic essentialism,” bel hooks, with her framing of “postmodern blackness,” and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, with her notion of “intersectionality”—had already laid the groundwork for the popular explosion of renewed, revitalized race consciousness, now to be deployed as a blunt instrument to pummel all those still daring to insist that judging people based on their race was wrong or, worse, insisting that society should be governed by universal, race-neutral standards applying to one and all. What we needed instead, these people told us, was a hysterical hypersensitivity to all manner of racial difference. A white child’s natural curiosity about the different texture or style of a black child’s hair was now a “microaggression,” while daring to judge a black person negatively for going around in sagging jeans or for having failed to learn to speak or write standard English was now racism in the first degree.
But when we switch our governing paradigm from race-blindness back to race-consciousness, we face the “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” danger that white people will, first, adopt an “I’m white, and I’m proud” equivalent to the new black pride but, second, that white people will join the chorus in crying foul when they are subjected to racial microaggressions. The solution to this dilemma was to nip it in the bud by redefining “racism” once again to dictate that only a group that is oppressed could be its victims. Now, the door was wide open to impose a universal double-standard: to praise black pride, condemn white pride, condemn anti-black racism and broadcast blatant, virulent anti-white racism—far beyond mere microaggressions—from the rafters. Sweeping racial labels—“white privilege,” “white fragility,” “white supremacy,” and even “whiteness” itself (to denote a sinful culture)—proliferated and rapidly became normalized.
Unveiling “Systemic Racism,” the One Meme to Rule Them All
This is the cultural background against which the toxic meme of “systemic racism” was unveiled to the general public and before very long was being chanted like a hypnotic mantra by all the mouthpieces of the powers-that-be in the name of our purported moral betterment. So what exactly is “systemic racism”? Also known as “structural racism” and “institutional racism,” it is defined by Wikipedia 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.” Staying with Wikipedia as a good barometer of common public opinion, we can find there assembled many purported examples of systemic racism, falling into the categories such as housing/lending, healthcare/environmental racism, criminal conviction, and education. But very few of the specific examples in any of the categories fit the bill.
I will not take each specific example one by one, which would require far more space than I have here but which would also involve a whole lot of repetition to lay out the same basic criticisms again and again. What I will do below, instead, is discuss a few high-profile examples and highlight some of broad methodological flaws that subsume nearly all the examples on offer.
The reason, as we will shortly see, that it is fair to characterize systemic racism as a nutty and sweeping conspiracy theory is that racism is, again and again, simply assumed to be the universal, underlying, unitary cause of multifarious phenomena for which other, more parsimonious, accurate, and complex explanations are blithely ignored or dismissed. Even in the incident that is widely and uncritically accepted as the #BLM-riot-precipitating poster child for systemic racism—the 2020 death of George Floyd involving police office Derek Chauvin—we had no actual reason to believe that Floyd’s race had anything to do with what occurred, and a recent documentary entitled The Fall of Minneapolis all but conclusively proves that the media’s narrative that Chauvin engaged in criminal misconduct that killed Floyd is a total and utter lie. Moreover, as five black Memphis police officers’ killing of Tyre Nichols in January 2023 or the largely unknown police killing of mentally ill white man Tony Timpa under circumstances very similar to those at issue in the Floyd affair testify, deadly police brutality (which we will have occasion to say a bit more about below) does not require or even imply a racist motivation. And, yet, the race-baiting media did everything in its power to pour fuel on those #BLM flames, beating this Big Lie into us relentlessly until daring to dissent from the orthodoxy posed a danger to life and limb. Thus, like similar racial, ethnic, or religious conspiracy theories, such as the longstanding one that insists a shadowy cabal of Jews runs the world’s financial system and is responsible for all the trials and tribulations endured by “the little guy,” the systemic racism conspiracy theory posits that racist white people are behind all the woes that afflict black Americans. Simplistic, monocausal explanations for complicated realities will always have their appeal to black-and-white thinkers (no pun intended), of whom there are more and more in our polarized political environment, and that is precisely why conspiracy theories purporting to offer the skeleton key that turns all locks have endured even when the key is shaped like a baseball bat bashing all truth and nuance to smithereens in order to conform them to our preconceived notions.
Systemic Racism’s Systematic Distortions of Reality
1. A Historical Bait-and-Switch
Let me begin by observing that most of the examples of systemic racism provided in the Wikipedia entry and other sources devoted to the subject are historical rather than contemporary. This is a bait-and-switch, of course. No one could possibly dispute that this nation, historically speaking, employed racist policies and practices in many walks of life. But dribbling on about the old Jim Crow days does not advance the ball on making any showing that we are a systemically racist nation today. What it does do, however, is channel our presumed recognition of the truth of such claims about the nation’s racist past in order to prime us to accept the far more dubious claims about continued systemic racism in a very different 21st century America. That’s how it’s always been, so why not now?, we reason. Accepting the reality of drastic change is not our strong suit.
Even many of the historical examples, for that matter, distort history beyond recognition. Take the much-discussed practice of “redlining,” a word a certain kind of holier-than-thou liberal likes to pronounce with a portentous gravity from time to time to indicate knowledge of buried truths. The term, while broader in scope, is most commonly used to refer to the mid-20th century designation of neighborhoods, ostensibly largely black neighborhoods, as credit risks, such that Federal Housing Authority-insured loans would not be extended to the residents of such neighborhoods, thereby preventing blacks from building up heritable wealth through homeownership. The writer Samuel Kronen, however, has cogently demonstrated numerous flaws in this account. First, he explains, 85% percent of households in redlined neighborhoods were actually occupied by whites, not blacks. Second, predominantly white areas that were redlined had better economic profiles than redlined areas that had larger shares of black residents, which is the opposite of what one would expect to find if the true motivation were a racist one to shut out deserving blacks from getting loans. And, third, areas that had been redlined are only about 28% black today, suggesting that historical redlining does not correlate with present-day traces of black disadvantage. This is but one example of how even genuine instances of historical racism can get amped up to play into a twisted narrative built on rage; many other examples, such as the seriously demented and ahistorical “1619 Project” arguing, among other false claims, that the American Revolution was fought to defend the practice of slavery, fit this same general profile.
2. Systemic Poverty Is not Systemic Racism
Next, we have examples galore of disadvantages accruing to particular patterns of poverty rather than race per se. Black people in America are disproportionately numbered among the poor, with 17.1% of blacks living in poverty, as compared to only 8.6% of whites. Moreover, 45% of poor black children grow up in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, while only 12% of poor white children grow up in similar neighborhoods. This is just another way of saying something that we all already know: Poor black people are far more likely to be located in poor urban ghettos. We should not be surprised, then, that black people are also more likely to live in neighborhoods that are heavily policed, have underfunded schools, and are afflicted with all manner of urban blight and what is often deceptively dubbed “environmental racism”—lacking parks and green spaces or otherwise suffering from pollution. To call these downstream effects “systemic racism” is like claiming that the fact that financial industry workers, who are disproportionately white, are more likely to be accused of white-collar crimes is a clear indication of anti-white racism in action.
Now, there are those, such as Prof. Ibram X. Kendi, America’s most prominent race-hustler of the moment, who would have us believe, in what is itself also a purely conspiracist belief system, that any race-disproportionate outcome that does not operate in blacks’ favor is an automatic indication of racism afoot. But even to those who have not completely lost their minds, might it not sound reasonable that disproportionate black poverty (with all its attendant consequences) is, in its turn, a direct consequence of a historical legacy that began with slavery and continued through the failure of Reconstruction and the age of Jim Crow? We should note, first, that even if this were so, it would yet again be a detour back into history, not a claim about racism existing today.
3. A Legacy Not of Slavery and Jim Crow but of the (Not So) “Great Society”
But, second, even as a historical claim, this one is questionable. As the economist Thomas Sowell’s research has repeatedly shown, the contemporary plight of poor blacks in the United States is far less a product of slavery and Jim Crow than it is of unintended consequences of President Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous Great Society. We have very short memories, as I said above, and so when we talk about reparations today, we like to imagine this generation has discovered the idea for the very first time; in fact, however, President Johnson expressly envisioned his Great Society programs as a way to “end the one huge wrong of the American Nation.” He explained, in speaking of the programs during his 1965 commencement address at the historically black Howard University, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” President Johnson specifically intended that his ostensibly race-neutral anti-poverty programs would disproportionately benefit black Americans because black Americans were disproportionately those who stood to gain from means-tested anti-poverty benefits. What President Johnson presumably did not know is that the actual effect of these programs would be to disincentivize work, foster dependency, and enable single motherhood, causing the breakup of the black family.
Sowell likes to puncture the myth that President Johnson’s war on black poverty is what led to a dramatic betterment in the fortunes of black Americans by pointing out that the black poverty rate actually fell by 40 percentage points—from 87% to 47%—between 1940 and 1960, before the Great Society began, compared to the 18 percentage point decline over the course of those next 20 years. We can imagine that the initial decline of 40 percentage points in any community is an easier slide—entailing the more capable and motivated individuals primed to ride the coattails of a general, post-Great Depression economic recovery—than the harder slog of getting that next, incremental segment of the same community out of poverty. A slowing of the process may be expected and not inherently due to the Great Society’s flaws, many though those were. But I take Sowell’s point regardless because what that meteoric 20-year ascent in black fortunes shows us is that even before President Johnson stepped in with his heavy-handed paternalism, black Americans were already making the same quantum leap out of poverty that so many other ethnic and racial groups that had faced adversity in the United States had made before them. Black Americans faced more obstacles than others, to be sure, but those obstacles were far from insuperable. It was the Great Society, Sowell argues, that made them insuperable. In the course of those post-Johnson years, the social fabric of black society began to unravel, leading to family breakdown, skyrocketing crime, and an all-around transformation of urban black neighborhoods and housing projects into the dangerous, thug-infested places they often still are today.
In 1965, before the advent of the Great Society, 24% of black infants and 3% of white infants were born out of wedlock. By 1990, those rates, respectively, were 64% for blacks and 18% for whites. By 2015, the numbers were still more dire: 77.3% for blacks and 30% for whites. While premarital sex had not been unheard of in 1965, because the financial reality, especially for the poor, was that a two-parent family was required to raise kids, prevailing social mores dictated that a premarital pregnancy would be followed in short order by a shotgun wedding. But President Johnson’s new system of welfare benefits, including AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), made single motherhood financially sustainable. This, combined with the growing availability of methods of contraception, as well as abortion, led to a sea change in which unmarried fathers-to-be were no longer expected to tie the knot. Even when controlling for their parents’ income and education, children who grow up in single families are three times more likely to end up in poverty, have lower educational attainment, commit more crimes, and suffer from more emotional problems.
The Great Society, in other words, created our contemporary ghettos with their self-destructive culture of poverty, dependency and thuggery, where about one third of black males find themselves in jail at some point in their lives, men impregnate women without ever becoming true fathers, and, then, children grow up condemned to continue the cycle of poverty that began in the 1960s. These are not inherent propensities of black Americans, as certain unreconstructed racists may believe; rather, they were socially engineered by would-be do-gooders. But we also cannot blame the all-too-real afflictions of many black Americans today on the original sins of slavery and Jim Crow, nor can we blame any “systemic racism” that came afterwards. It was not systemic racism but the far more pernicious “systemic antiracism” begun by one of America’s absolute worst Presidents—whose hubris gave us the colossal blunders of the Great Society and the full-on phase of the Vietnam War—that dug much of the hole blacks today are still struggling to escape.
4. “Overpolicing,” the Killer Cop “Epidemic” and the “Mass Incarceration” Mirage
President Johnson’s blunders, as I have already said, created a permanent underclass and brought us the contemporary crime-ridden urban ghettos we know today, but going back to the list of examples of systemic racism, we are regaled with tall tales of how our criminal justice system manifests such racism in innumerable ways, whether in police killings of unarmed blacks, stop-and-frisks or traffic stops, disparate sentencing, or selective criminalization of offenses. These claims, at best, are wildly exaggerated.
Consider, at the outset, the loony complaint that the highest crime neighborhoods are “overpoliced,” with their residents subject to a larger number of adverse interactions with cops. Only a white limousine liberal—along with a small contingent of high-profile black activists who serve as mascots for the white liberal power brokers but do not represent the views or interests of their own communities—could possibly make a claim as facially outlandish as this. Even at the absolute height of #BLM hysteria during the summer of 2020, when various unhinged individuals were speaking of “defunding the police,” a Gallup poll found that 61% of blacks opposed any defunding, while 20% actually wanted more cops walking their streets. As New York State Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, representing the residents of Harlem, put it succinctly, “AOC supports defunding the police. My community opposes defunding the police.” Similarly, the “War on Drugs” begun by President Nixon that is now widely derided for its racism and contribution to black incarceration, was, at the time, aggressively pushed by black leaders and black communities. Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Nixon and urged him to escalate the War on Drugs. In New York City, the epicenter of the heroin epidemic in those days, “[t]he silent black majority of Harlem and New York City felt constantly accosted by drug addicts, by pushers, by crime,” Michael Javen Fortner, a political scientist and historian from Rutgers University, explained.
This all makes perfect sense. The overwhelming majority of blacks living in urban ghettos are law-abiding citizens for whom the bums, thugs and criminals plaguing their own neighborhoods constitute a basic quality-of-life issue. Police officers are often the difference between life and death…and not in the way the activist class imagines. The high-profile issue of cops killing unarmed black men is a media-manufactured myth perpetuated to inflame passions and drive profit margins. A grand total of approximately 11 black men per year who are unarmed and not attacking police are killed by cops, and, as Ronald Fryer, the MacArthur “Genius” Award Winner and the black Harvard economist and researcher on the police’s use of force, found in a large study, when respective crime rates are taken into account, blacks are slightly less likely to be killed by police than are whites in comparable circumstances. This is why, contrary to the (literally) deadly media myth that cops are a danger to blacks—and as even the left propaganda outlet NPR has admitted—the net effect of more cops in a neighborhood is to save lives, as well as reduce other serious crimes, such as robberies, rapes and assaults. What is more, as NPR, citing the work of black New York University economist Morgan Williams, explained, “in the average city, larger police forces result in [b]lack lives saved at about twice the rate of white lives saved (relative to their percentage of the population). When you consider African Americans are much more likely to live in dense, poverty-stricken areas with high homicide rates—leading to more opportunities for police officers to potentially prevent victimization—that may help explain this finding.” Indeed.
It goes without saying that increased police presence in high-crime neighborhoods will have inevitable spillover effects, including more innocent, law-abiding residents of those neighborhoods getting stopped, harassed, or otherwise mistaken for perpetrators. When police are looking for a black crime suspect and make a misidentification, moreover, it will be exceedingly likely that the individual erroneously stopped or apprehended will also be black, not white. Such unfortunate spillover effects and many like them are natural consequences of normal, proper policing. They are not systemic racism of any sort.
A similar non-starter is the idea that some large numbers of black people are being convicted and incarcerated for low-level drug offenses, e.g., possession, whereas whites are not facing such consequences because the drugs they tend to use are less harshly penalized. The journalist and frequent commentator on issues of criminal justice, Heather Mac Donald, has repeatedly rebutted this and other myths concerning over-policing and “mass incarceration.” As she explains, <1% of federal prisoners in 2014 and 3.6% of state prisoners in 2013 were convicted of mere drug possession. As she goes on to describe:
“It is not marijuana-smoking that lands a skewed number of black men in prison but their elevated rates of violent and property crime. A 2011 study of California and New York arrest data led by Pennsylvania State University criminologist Darrell Steffensmeier found that blacks commit homicide at 11 times the rate of whites and robbery at 12 times the rate of whites. Such disparities are repeated in city-level data. In New York City, blacks commit over 75 percent of all shootings, according to the victims of and witnesses to those shootings, though they are only 23 percent of the city’s population. They commit 70 percent of all robberies. Whites, by contrast, commit under 2 percent of all shootings and 4 percent of all robberies, though they are 34 percent of the city’s population. In the 75 largest county jurisdictions in 2009, blacks were 62 percent of robbery defendants, 61 percent of weapons offenders, 57 percent of murder defendants, and 50 percent of forgery cases, even though nationwide, blacks are 12 percent of the population. They dominated the drug-trafficking cases more than possession cases. Blacks made up 53 percent of all state trafficking defendants in 2009, whites made up 22 percent, and Hispanics 23 percent, whereas in possession prosecutions, blacks were 39 percent of defendants, whites 34 percent, and Hispanics 26 percent.”
Along similar lines, a recent study of the criminal justice system in George Floyd’s home state of Minnesota found that although blacks are nine times more likely than whites to be criminal offenders and ten times more likely to be serious offenders, the outcomes for them are disproportionately more lenient throughout every phase of the criminal justice system.
5. Taking Stock of What Little Remains
Hopefully, by this point, it is becoming apparent how easily the dominoes of the systemic racism conspiracy theory systematically capsize one after another when a bit of logical rigor or empirical scrutiny is introduced. There are, naturally, many other examples where pure race-disproportionate outcomes—such as the percentage of university faculty that is black (7%) as compared to the overall share of the black population (13.6%) or the comparatively higher percentage of blacks who died from COVID-19—are passed off as systemic racism, while the actual underlying causes of such disparities—the almost total lack of black Ph.D.s, and thus, of applicants for faculty positions, in many disciplines or the far higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other preexisting conditions that could result in adverse COVID-19 outcomes for blacks—are routinely ignored or downplayed.
It is also undoubtedly the case that even after we go through example after example and show that these fire-breathing dragons of systemic racism are nearly all just snakes in the grass with a bit of halitosis to befoul our air, we will still be left with a small share of genuine examples that cannot be explained away. The point, however, is that in 2024, these are few and far between, and their impact on society is negligible. And the still more important point is that those examples pale in comparison with the glaringly obvious examples of actual systemic racism practiced against white people and, to a large extent, Asian people in America today.
Systemic Racism—Maybe, but Not Against Blacks
Nearly every prestigious educational institution and large corporation in our midst is salivating at the prospect of admitting and hiring more blacks, giving them every possible advantage in their increasingly opaque admissions, hiring, and promotion processes. Long-standing affirmative action practices and other varieties of DEI efforts resulting in the institutional advancement of black individuals over more qualified others in nearly every walk of life today cannot be denied. Claiming they are engaging in anti-racism and deconstructing the carceral state, rogue prosecutors are refusing to prosecute quality of life crimes, refusing to impose bail even on violent criminals and setting them free to strike again. Educators are indoctrinating kids in a demented, Manichean view of American history in which black people are cast in the role of eternal heroes struggling against the original and ever-ongoing sin of white oppression. The most culturally influential segments of our society—the media, the entertainment industry, academia, and our largest corporations such as The Walt Disney Company and Alphabet Inc.—are actively pushing the #BLM agenda, attacking the United States as racist and built on white supremacy, attacking white people as the cancer at our root and adopting a blacks-can-do-no-wrong ideology on every level. To suggest that these people—the ones now effectively running the show—are operating a systemically racist country stretches credulity past every breaking point. Or, at least, it stretches credulity to suggest that these people are engaging in systemic racism against blacks rather than in favor of blacks in every way, shape and form imaginable.
Black people today have been elevated to every position of power. We have already had a black President. We now have a black Vice-President. We have two black Supreme Court Justices. Of the 435 members of the United States House of Representatives, 58 are black, almost precisely equaling the black share of the American population. The mayors of some of our largest and most important cities—New York, City Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco, New Orleans, Baltimore, Kansas City, St. Louis, Cleveland, Dallas and Washington, D.C.—are black. Of the 336 university presidents hired in the 18 months following the #BLM riots of June 2020, a whopping 25.3% were black, including, of course, the now-notorious former president of Harvard University. In 2024, the United States is a nation in which able, motivated black people have been given every leg up in every meaningful process, such that we have all but ensured that they can and will ascend and succeed.
We can say all this and still acknowledge that black people as a whole continue to lag behind the rest of us in many indicators that matter. The average household income of white Americans as of 2021 was $74,932, whereas the average household income of black Americans in the same year was $46,774. However, if we look at the data more closely, we will see that the narrative it supports is not one of systemic racism. As a group, it is not white Americans but, rather, Asian Americans who have, by a very wide margin, the highest average household income, standing at $100,572. And if we look still more closely and break down the data by specific ethnic groups in the United States, our top ten looks like this:
|2021 Household Income
Notably, native-born white Americans who do not identify as belonging to some other particular ethnic group, e.g., not English, Irish, Italian, German, Polish, etc., have an average income of $59,995, below the national average of $69,717.
We can say what we want about this data, but to conclude that America is a systemically racist nation, we would have to believe that our white power brokers are running a country in which they relegated themselves to below-average income status while Indians, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans, with skin typically just as dark as that of black Americans, end up at or near the top of the income ladder. Other Asians from Taiwan, the Philippines, and China likewise find themselves close to the top, and the only Caucasian people who even break into the top ten are Eastern European Latvians, Middle Eastern Iranians, and, then, South Africans, who are likely to be wealthy white South Africans who probably already came to the United States as high-earners (a fair assumption given that post-apartheid South Africa is the most income-unequal nation on Earth, with much of the inequality tracking the white-black wealth gap). To put this another way, it is time, once and for all, to jettison the “systemic racism” charade that has been pitting us against one another and start looking for explanations for our problems that are a bit more complex, a bit more nuanced, a bit more multifactorial, a bit less conspiratorial, and a whole lot less insane.
Alexander Zubatov is a lawyer in New York, as well as an essayist and poet. He can be found on X @Zoobahtov