The concept of systemic racism seems to be for some (mostly white people) a point of contention in terms of believing in and understanding it. I’m actually not really surprised at that. Why would a people who have had everything in their world catered to making them comfortable and reflecting their own self image ever see injustice in another marginalized group of people? This is not only directed to Caucasian people, although they are the primary focus of many conversations on race due to white supremacy.
Most Caucasian people are completely unaware of how much the world in its entirety caters to them because it is all they know. Many of them have no awareness of how much their marketing and advertising in almost every category is geared towards them, even in inclusive “melting-pot” multicultural societies. They are still the primary focus. The justice systems in both the U.S. and Canada are designed for them. “Justice” in the eyes of the law refers to justice for white people, not people of colour in any way. More specifically, justice refers primarily to white men, although some white women continue to gain off of the patriarchy. But justice is not and has never been for people of colour of any tribe in North America.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a system as “a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.” Principles and procedures are designed by people. They are a reflection of a person’s or group of people’s thoughts, ideas and beliefs of how something should be done. When I was a manager in a department where I had to build the policy and procedures, I remember sitting with my boss and my boss’s boss as we discussed and debated our new policies based on our collective beliefs about the best practices we wanted to implement that would reflect our company and its values. So I know all about creating organized methods to things that then create systems. The success of that system depends on whether or not all the working pieces do their job effectively and correctly. When they do, they are successful. Systemic racism works very much the same way. It is a system of laws, practices and procedures that are aimed towards oppressing the BIPOC community, Indigenous community and other marginalized groups. It is a system that is designed to keep white, cisgender heterosexual people primarily comfortable with the world they see. Whenever there are issues with certain groups of people, whether they be women, Black people, etc. laws are put into place (policies and procedures) that limit those groups from living their lives freely. We are seeing this with conservatives attempting to overturn Roe v. Wade even though they have repeatedly claimed it’s settled law. We are seeing it with rumors that a conservative Supreme Court will overturn gay marriage and are already rolling back protections for transgender and LGBTQIA+ folks. This is what systemic racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia looks like.
So to all the white people out there claiming that there is no systemic racism and that we need to stop saying that, please STFU. Do your research, understand what a system is and how it’s created and then look at Congress and tell me who you see creating these very laws. Because it sure as hell ain’t people of colour. White people, and racist white people at that, continue to create and support systems of oppression; but because they vote the lawmakers in who create these laws, they believe it is a reflection of what the majority of people want. They believe that if a group of people get together and say “we don’t want this” (whatever the “this” may be) then they should get what they want. But what if the “this” are programs to help people of colour? Or to protect us? Or programs to give us reparations? Who stands up for us in the white community and says, “we are all citizens and this country was built off of the backs of Black enslaved people who we brought to a country we stole from the Indigenous people here?” It’s fascinating to me that so many white people want to jump all over Black people and people of colour in general whenever we point out their lack of caring for us as evidenced in our justice system; and yet they cannot point out where collectively they have stood up for and fought for justice for us. When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, it took two years before every enslaved person finally knew they were free, which is what the celebration of Juneteenth is all about. For two whole years after white people knew that the Black enslaved people were legally and constitutionally free, they kept them in slavery and bondage. They continued to rape, lynch and murder them. This was after a law was passed…and white people as a whole now want us to believe that there is no such thing as systemic racism simply because they don’t see evidence or proof of it?
Most days, it feels like as a Black people our screams are falling on deaf ears. Deaf ears not because they cannot hear us, but because they make a conscious choice to ignore and turn away from the problem. White privilege as one part of its numerous definitions, is an ability to decide that you are not going to pay attention to a problem because it does not affect you personally, even though it is oppressing another group of people. When white people say there is no systemic racism, that is the height and definition of white privilege. To say that something doesn’t exist simply because it isn’t your reality is the manifestation of the ignorance that comes with this kind of erroneous thinking. It is dangerous and it costs my community our lives. We can no longer depend on a group of people who continue to refuse to see the very real problems that are facing my community. While I completely appreciate that there are a lot of anti-racist Caucasian and non-Black people of colour doing the work, there’s unfortunately not enough people doing it. The voices of racists still seem to be louder than the voices of accomplices. I consistently see where Black people I know are posting about racial injustices while many white people continue to live their lives like nothing is going wrong. It is infuriating. While I understand that social media is only a microcosm of society in any given moment and is not a true reflection of whether someone is doing the work or not, I do have to point out that it’s interesting that some white people can make excuses for posting all kinds of things that do not show their support of social justice issues, yet will only post a Black square when everyone else is doing it. They never attend marches or rallies or sign petitions or make phone calls or write emails. They seem to be part-time allies, exhibiting traits similar to part-time religious people; only participating on their time when it’s convenient for them.
As a society, we will get no where waiting on these people. So we will continue to protest. We will continue to use our voices. We will continue to create art and express ourselves through multiple media avenues. We will continue to fight. Because it is clear that most white people will continue to sit on the sidelines and pretend they don’t know or see what’s going on. And that is not acceptable to my community any longer. It never was to begin with and it definitely is not acceptable now. Too many lives are at stake. My future and my future children's future are at stake. So I hope the world is really ready for this revolution. Because not only will it be televised; it will be felt and experienced by everyone, whether they are with it or not.