Why eliminating systemic racism in the United States is difficult
Aya Miller, Freelance contributor for The Run.
President-elect, Joe Biden, tweeted “America is back” to coincide with the announcement of his national security team on November 24. My first thought upon seeing this was, what does America really have to go back to?
Our country and many of its system are built on the legacy of slavery and blatantly racist Jim-Crow era policies. The legacy of these policies have left BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) disenfranchised in ways that have not been addressed. If the Biden administration fails to adamantly combat systemic racism, then we’ll have only returned to the old order. But in a country where capitalism and the mythological American Dream is king, instituting anti-racist policies has become a controversial path.
Take affirmative action, for example. At its core, the policy is intended to give BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) applicants a more level playing field when applying to esteemed colleges and universities. Yet, Harvard and Yale have been sued by different parties alleging their affirmative action policies discriminate against Asian-American and white students.
If you look at these policies on their surface, yes, you can argue the policies are unfair because they benefit Black and Hispanic students in the admissions process. But, by that logic, the entire college admissions process is unfair considering how prevalent racial disparities are in test scores. Per Brookings, the average score for Black and Hispanic students is significantly lower than that of white and Asian students.
Black and Hispanic students are not somehow inherently less smart than white and Asian students so there has to be another reason for the disparity in test scores. Affirmative action policies are simply attempting to take this disparity into account in the application process. Is that fair? No. Is it equitable? Yes.
Therein lies the larger problem with addressing systemic racism: Reparations of any kind wouldn’t be ‘fair’ to other Americans. Many of those who are against reparations believe they’ve bootstrapped their way to their current strata economically and can improve it if they work hard enough. But due to decades of racist policies, Black people, specifically, are born at a disadvantage to those of other races.
If we continue to disregard how the history of racism is influencing our country today, we’ll have made no progress. Refusing to shed light on and address these problems will also advance the narrative that racism ended when obviously racist policies were abolished. So, if “America is (really) back” we’d simply be continuing a failure to address decades of disenfranchisement.
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