(Op-ed) Why Systemic Racism is Real
Author: Viktoria Wulff-Andersen (Danbury High School)
Editor: Bob Wang
Credit; Washington Post
The recent tragic death of George Floyd at the foot of a white police officer has spurred conversations regarding the presence of an American systemic bias, that is, a bias rooted in America’s infrastructures and core, against black people.
On one side, individuals claim that there is no systemic bias against black people in the United States because most police officers don’t go out of their way to speak out against or harm black people. Yet, history and reality showcase a much more truthful perspective: it only takes a small portion of officers and others actively harming black people coupled with the rest of the American population remaining silent to cultivate the systemic bias against black people in our country. The War on Drugs, the ignoring of the Black Lives Matter Movement by the media just a couple of weeks after Treyvon Martin’s death, and Trump’s order to curtail the Justice Department’s investigation of police forces are just a few examples of systemic bias against black people in today’s society.
There is no denying that America has made improvements in civil rights over the years. There are legislative acts that prohibit black discrimination and constitutional amendments to defend black rights to vote and be recognized as civilians. These achievements can be thanked in part to the efforts of groups like “Black is Beautiful” or the Black Panther Party and individuals like Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, and Barack Obama.
Since America has had its black president, shouldn’t that mean racism is over? That statement could not be further from the truth. While Barack Obama made many progressive strides and allowed for the black community to be heard during his time in office, events since his election have shown that progress still needs to be made. Black employees are paid 25 percent less than their white counterparts. Black men in the United States receive sentences that are 19.1 percent longer than white men convicted for the same crimes. Black people have nearly twice the risk of being killed by police using excessive force in comparison to the total American population.
The election of Donald Trump also represents another factor - much of America was not ready for a black president. The calls for Obama’s birth certificates, the comparison of his relatives to apes amongst Republican media, and the criticism of his tan suit only foreshadowed the prejudiced backlash to Obama’s presidency. The fact that Trump’s alt-right appeal to white, uneducated voters on a platform of nativism and racism shows that America wasn’t ready for a black president. The election of Trump after Obama’s presidency mirrors much of the White Restoration Movement following the radically progressive moves of the Reconstruction Period, and this reflection simply proves that systemic bias and racism are still inherent in America.
George Floyd’s murder demonstrates that racism laces the actions of Americans in power. Such violent actions taken against a non-resistant, innocent man represents a prejudiced view present among many officials that black people are dangerous, a view stemmed from years of believing black people to be savage. The fact that conservative media outlets and individuals are criticizing Black Lives Matter protests for not stating “All Lives Matter” shows an intrinsic belief formed in many white people that their race must be involved in everything and is thus superior in some aspect. The mocking of Floyd’s death or the focus on his brief shoplifting incident illustrates how many white people still don’t view black people as full citizens in actively seeking ways to justify the murder of a black man (which they wouldn’t do if Floyd was white).
Black people may have rights on paper in America, but their bones are what this nation was built on. The Declaration of Independence’s claim that “all men are created equal” was made under the pretense that black men were property. The United States Constitution was mostly ratified because of two compromises regarding slavery, one of which considered black slaves to be three-fifths of a person. Southern America’s classical infrastructure was built by black slaves who were beaten and isolated. America’s history is rooted in black blood.
Strides have been made. Slavery has been abolished. Black people are finally considered civilians with rights. Children of all races can attend school together. These were ideas foreign to old America. The bare minimum needed to progress further in civil rights and black equality has been obtained, but even more progress is needed.
These protests will make progress. When the Los Angeles Riots occurred in 1992 in response to the brutal police beating of Rodney King, the city was on par with where much of the nation is in response to black equality today. However, now Los Angeles is considered to be one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country and considered to be one of the best cities for equality and opportunity in the country. With mass passion and the right message, the Black Lives Matter Movement will bring about LA's change - already evident in the arrests made for Floyd's murder and police reform being undertaken in major cities - on a national level. A massive movement with loud voices calling for what’s right is what is necessary for the country to wake up and begin making strides towards black equality.
Opinions expressed on the Coalition Times do not necessarily represent ECC's standpoints, and our publication is not an endorcement of them.