What is "systemic racism?" The answer is that it is a term used by those who believe the "system" is itself the cause of discrimination and racism in America. It's a sort of code word for identifying the free enterprise system and the limited government created by the Founders as being endemically corrupted by racism. The message is that regardless of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and regardless of legal protections against discrimination, American society, in general, is racist.
In reality, "systemic racism" is a term or phrase developed to cast aspersions on all of American society and to justify tearing down long-established institutions in favor of an all-powerful government run by a select few. It is pejorative, ideological term. It's a term that is used without argument, justification or logic to attack people and institutions with whom Marxists disagree. In lieu of identifying specific cases of racism or discrimination, the charge is levied that the entire system is racist.
Ironically while the Marxists are wrong about the limited government created by our Founders and wrong about our free market system, I would argue that, in fact, there is "systemic racism" in America. The fact is "systemic racism" has been the official public policy of the US government at least as far back as the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. What else do you call public policies that undercut the self-sufficiency of poor people, especially black Americans? What do you call official policy that turns citizens into wards of the state? It's not that poverty did not exist in 1935 or in 1964, but rather that the laws imposed on those in poverty, especially black Americans, made their situation worse, not better. Such laws and policies fit precisely the definition of "systemic racism." These policies, even today, receive the approbation of the liberal/progressive movement.
The fact is that well before the advent of the New Deal and the Great Society, the intactness of black families matched or even exceeded that of white America. And, by all rational and logical standards, the nuclear family is the foundation of any successful society. Historically, nations and families do not prosper unless the family unit is strong. But, the Great Society and AFDC—Aid for Dependent Children, formerly ADC (under the Social Security Act of 1935), and now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)—succeeded in destroying the nuclear family in the black community. It didn't just damage the black family, it utterly decimated it, wreaking havoc and causing human misery almost beyond comprehension. By penalizing marriage and paying bounties for babies, TANF continues to rip apart black families, especially in the central cities of our nation.
TANF not only makes marriages financially impractical, it trivializes marriage as a building block of society. Further, by undercutting black males and denying them their self respect, TANF has destroyed lives. Without a positive male role model, millions of young black males have fallen through the cracks and become involved in gangs, violence, and truancy, embracing destructive moral values.
The damaging record of what began as ADC goes on and on. The "systemic racism" of TANF and the Great Society has denied black Americans access to the economic ladder of success. Who can provide the example to young black males of working your way up out of poverty when there is no father in the home? Who can climb the ladder of success when the first rung—an entry level job—has been removed through the imposition of an arbitrary minimum wage. Minimum wage scales are created at the behest of labor unions seeking to close off access to the marketplace by those who are willing to offer their services at a lower wage in order to take the first step up the ladder of opportunity. Today the minimum wage is set so high that the unemployment rate among young black Americans approaches 50%! This cynical payoff by the unions denies black Americans and others who are poor the opportunity to begin the climb up the ladder of economic success.
This is not mythology, this is reality. Tell me of one non-trust fund child in America who has achieved success who did not get his start in an entry level job. I worked as a "sacker" in a grocery store at $1.00 per hour. Like all new hires, I learned how the business world worked from that job. I was proud of the fact that the boss told me I was the best "sacker" he ever hired. What did I learn? I learned punctuality and I learned how to dress in the right way. I learned that hustling was the way to move up the ladder. I learned how to take orders and how to do them to the best of my ability. I learned how to communicate clearly and and I gained a strong respect for authority. I saw all kinds of people in action and that helped me to decide what I wanted to do and what I did not want to do. That's what an entry level job is all about, learning the ropes so that you can ascend the ladder of success. It's nearly impossible to ascend the ladder when the first rung has been removed.
But climbing the ladder of success wasn't just denied the black community by imposition of the minimum wage, it was also blocked by the lack of a father in the home that exercised discipline, modeled success, and modeled how men treat women. Driving fathers out of the home is undoubtedly the worst aspect of the TANF program. Everything that government has done in poor, black communities has made the situation worse, not better.
Healthy communities cannot survive in a dangerous climate where crime thrives. It is a primary responsibility of society to establish and maintain order and safety in all our communities. In this respect, government has once again failed the black community. What business, that offers entry level and higher level jobs, wants to operate in an area where petty crime and even violence are common occurrences? When there are no businesses to employ workers due to high crime rates the challenge facing a young black man seeking a job is exacerbated. A healthy community is a safe community. When government fails in one of its primary responsibilities to protect its citizens, society fails.
Government further compounds its "systemic racism" by providing schools where neither discipline, nor education flourish. We know that great schools are possible in the worst areas of our nation because we have shining, successful examples in the form of KIPP—Knowledge is Power Program—schools that number more than 90 throughout the United States. In the worst area of the Bronx, NY, there is a high-performance KIPP school that consistently turns out top performing, successful students.
Prior to the creating of school choice, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, schools ranked 47th in the nation. The advent of the Milwaukee school choice program has resulted in highly successful schools like St. Marcus School. More than 97% of the graduates of St. Marcus elementary and middle school finish high school. Students from this same community experienced a drop-out rate from high school of more than 50% prior to the establishment of St. Marcus. It's not the students who were not capable or smart enough to become productive, successful members of society, it was government in the form of failing government run schools that failed them. It was the teacher's union that cast them aside and gave up on them. A good education is the foundation of a successful and productive life and the "systemic racism" accepted and even promoted by government failed these young Americans. They have been rescued by compassionate people unhindered by the "systemic racism" of government run schools controlled by teachers unions.
And what about the "systemic racism" of government policies that punish the poor by artificially raising the price of energy? Energy costs take a huge chunk out of the standard of living of the poor. While energy costs—for heating, AC and for gasoline—hurt the middle class, high energy prices for the poor destroy jobs and make their economic situation even worse. The record shows that most black Americans who live in the central city must travel farther for work. Higher energy costs mean higher transportation costs. Government policies that cause higher energy prices amount to nothing more than "systemic racism" and they hurt poor black Americans the most.
Surprisingly, entrepreneurship occurs more frequently among the poor in black communities than it does even in the middle class. Actually, it's not so surprising when you consider that while other avenues of opportunity are cut off, starting your own business is another means of climbing the ladder of success. Opening your own laundry, your own barber shop, your own taxi service, your own handy-man service is a way of creating your own job and making a decent living. But even here the "systemic racism" of government conspires with established businesses to create rules, regulations, special taxes and licenses that effectively bar entry into the marketplace. Once again, government saws off the bottom rungs of the ladder of economic success in order to select winners and losers. Businesses like unions, seek to use government to create monopolies and cartels that effectively block entry into the marketplace. Corrupt politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are always more than willing to accommodate both parties, providing there is a quid pro quo in terms of support for re-election.
The "systemic racism" idea promoted by black radicals and white liberals is an excuse for tearing down the supposedly unfair and corrupt free market system. It's a lie. But the "systemic racism" that I have described above is real and devastating to those who suffer under it. It is particularly frustrating that government, and liberals in particular, have so utterly failed and targeted one segment of our society—black Americans—causing them to be victims of government instigated, government condoned, and government sponsored racism.
It makes no difference if the "systemic racism" of government was instigated with good intentions or with cynical political intentions, the result is the same. Through the agency of government we have systematically betrayed the poor, especially black Americans, by disallowing them access to the economic ladder of success. The real racists of the 21st century are those who knowingly hurt those in the black community by perpetuating failing schools, destroying intact families, denying safe, crime free streets, causing higher fuel costs, advocating for higher minimum wages and more regulations and difficult-to-obtain business licenses, in order to keep the people in those communities dependent upon them for political gain. Their policies have broken up homes and denied the poor the self-respect that comes from earning a living wage, caring for your family, and seeing your children advance to a higher standard of living than you have achieved. Such upward mobility is a key part of the American dream, but that dream is only possible when government does not interfere in the marketplace.