Systemic Racism Exists
Liberals are right to say systemic racism exists, but they’re wrong about its perpetrators. The systemic racists aren’t the non-woke white majority, who typically deny that systemic racism even exists. Today’s systemic racists—successors to proponents in the formal slavery period that ended with the Civil War and its informal continuance under Jim Crow—are America’s woke whites.
These white liberals, though well-intentioned, are so blinded by their racism that they believe blacks can’t feed themselves and their families without food stamps, can’t succeed on their own merits without affirmative action programs, and can’t even manage to get voter ID to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice.
President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and War on Poverty initiatives in the mid-1960s created the sea change that stymied the rapid advancements of blacks in overcoming the shackles of centuries of slavery. The Harvard Business School would describe the 1900–1930 period as “The Golden Age of Black Business” in which enterprising blacks were thriving despite the wholesale bigotry in society at large. Over the entire first half of the 20th century, in fact, blacks were less likely to be unemployed than whites and when they were, they were likelier to be reemployed faster than their white counterparts.
Moreover, despite their high poverty rate, most blacks had middle-class values—82 percent lived in married, two-parent households; 40 percent were small-business owners; children sought and got good grades. Harlem was a low-crime, vibrant community where whites as well as blacks felt comfortable walking the streets at night.
All that would change following Johnson’s sweeping welfare reforms, which had the effect of putting people on the dole, discouraging the work ethic, fast-tracking the decline of the family, and in the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an architect of the War on Poverty, of “defining deviancy down,” or normalizing what had previously been considered deviant behavior.
Moynihan, an iconic liberal statesman who later became a New York senator, accurately predicted that the breakdown of the black family would lead to social disaster. To avert this breakdown, he was an early exponent of giving black males not just equal opportunities but equal outcomes in the job market, in an attempt to strengthen the role of black men in the family as breadwinners. Ironically, his well-meaning reforms, based as they were on the view that blacks couldn’t make it on their own, accelerated the family breakdown, and the decline of black well being that he so sought to prevent.
“Many persons mistakenly compare discrimination against Negroes with past discrimination against other groups,” an unguarded Moynihan wrote in a private memorandum to Johnson in 1965.
“As if, for example, breaking down barriers to Negro apprentices in the buildings trades was like breaking down the quotas on Jewish students in medical schools a generation ago. It is not. Once the bars were down the Jewish lads swarmed into the schools and were more than equal to the competition of their fellow students.
“We have been in the business of breaking down job barriers to Negroes for four years now. We can no longer deny that our hardest task is not to create openings, but to fill them. … Many of these young persons pouring into the labor force are simply not going to be prepared to compete.”
The all-too-common paternalistic liberal belief that blacks aren’t up to the job, and thus need more of a handicap to compensate, is sincerely held and inherently racist. Because bleeding-heart liberalism has permeated government, this racism of low expectations has become systemic in our institutions. In recent years, this racism has also spread to newsrooms where white journalists, who are overwhelmingly liberal in their outlook, have been wokedly acknowledging their own racism and, in the belief that almost everyone holds their same low view of black competence, demanding that others follow suit.
Today’s woke liberals blame black failure on whites through the legacy of slavery. Black conservatives, such as Stanford’s Thomas Sowell, side more with Moynihan in seeing the collapse of the black family as more important in keeping blacks down. As Sowell reminds us, when blacks adopt traditional values, they thrive: “One key fact that keeps getting ignored is that the poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits every year since 1994.”
The woke racism of today that treats blacks as victims without the agency to better their lives on their own courts disaster as much as Moynihan’s soft racism did a half-century ago. The woke are to be commended for insisting that systemic racism exists, but the job of stamping it out starts with themselves.
Lawrence Solomon is an Epoch Times columnist, author, and executive director of the Toronto-based Consumer Policy Institute. @LSolomonTweets
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.