The Headache
Discussion of Issues that Make Your Head Hurt
The myth of systemic racism
Published 02/13/21 by arakouzo [0 Comments]

A popular idea in the Western world today is the notion of “systemic racism”. Even if you are not overtly racist, you don’t discriminate against people based on race, you think people who are non-white are worthy of equal protection under the law, and you wish them nothing but success, happiness, and opportunity, this does not matter. The system, itself, is racist and has taught you and all people to be racist without even knowing it. That's right. You don't discriminate and wish nothing but happiness and success upon non-white people, but you are still a racist.

I remember when I was in second grade, seven years old. It was the mid-1980s. I lived in a middle class suburban neighborhood, mostly white. But back then, kids from other neighborhoods would be bussed to schools in richer, mostly white neighborhoods in the name of equal opportunity so they could attend rich white schools and become as smart and successful as rich white people.

As kids, none of us had any idea what race was. Obviously, some kids looked different than other kids. I knew that my skin was beige and the black students had brown skin, but I had no idea what a “black person” was or that race was even a thing. My parents never told me anything about black people or race, my teachers never told me anything about black people or race, society and the media never told me anything about black people or race (all I watched on TV was cartoons, and the internet didn’t exist yet). I didn’t even know there was a distinction between the students with brown skin and the students with beige skin. We weren’t going to learn about the Civil War or slavery until several years later.

But even back then, in second grade, at seven years old, with nobody telling me a thing, I realized that the kids who had brown skin mostly hung out with each other and weren’t friends with the kids with beige skin. And they talked differently. They were speaking with the characteristic Ebonics accent that was popular among black people at the time, and used improper English. Every time my second grade teacher would pass back our graded math tests, they had failing grades on everything. This was easy stuff. I was making 100% on everything and thought school was easy, and the students with brown skin were failing easy math tests. And they were always behaving badly in class and bullying the other kids at recess.

My parents hadn’t told me a thing. My teachers hadn’t told me a thing. The media hadn’t told me a thing. I didn’t even know what race was or that these people were called “black” people.

And at seven years old, as a second-grader, I had figured out that the students with brown skin were dumber and less successful than the students with beige skin. And society and the “system” didn’t have to teach me that. The students with brown skin taught me that when they couldn’t even pass a basic second grade math test.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned what a black person was, and what the Civil War was, and what slavery was. And it wasn’t until I was in college that my professors began to teach me critical race theory. The notion that it wasn’t the fault of the people with brown skin that they were dumb, but the system’s fault because due to slavery, they were all poor and never had the opportunity to not be dumb.

But by that time, with nobody teaching me a thing about black people, I had spent the last 11 years, since age seven, knowing that the people with brown skin were dumber than the people with beige skin. Now, at age 18, I’m supposed to unlearn over a decade of experiences? A decade of watching brown-skinned people attending the same schools I’m attending speak improper English, fail easy academic tests, misbehave in school, and achieve less than the rest of us?

The very fact that racism is earned and not “systemic” is what makes it so hard to unlearn. The system is not racist. The system does not teach racism. Racism is earned when a race underperforms and misbehaves.

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Politics? Relationships? Religion? Sex? Constipation? Society is full of issues that make our heads hurt, our stomachs turn, and make all of us just plain tired.