It’s Not a Racist System

This sign contains a false premise

We abolished systemic racism in the 1950s and 1960s. Except for affirmative action, discrimination on the basis of race is illegal. That’s old news. I am old enough to remember when it happened (I will be sixty years of age in a few months).

The grievances we hear today about race are based on phantoms. Consider the core Black Lives Matter claims concerning the criminal justice system. A wealth of empirical studies fails to find evidence of racism in police shootings. As for prisons, the racial profile of the carceral system reflects the racial profile of crime in America. To be sure, the police kill too many civilians and states lock up too many people, but this is not due to racism.

There are racial disparities. Conveyed in reductionistic statistical terms, blacks trails whites in every significant social category. But it is to mystify the causes of these disparities to suggest abstractions for which there is no empirical evidence. We can’t hide the fact of the nonexistence of systemic racism by claiming it’s “implicit” in our actions or that sociological theory and academic jargon are required to see it.

The state of theory in the academy today is like theology—its incantations call into existence constituents in a spirit world. The purpose of the riots is something else. Yes, of course, there are those who believe the ideology and feel they’re doing good work. We see this in almost every religion. But enough people know the grievances are false or misspecified to figure out the ulterior motive.

If we want to solve the problems of working people, then we will have to confront economic power. We have to put ideology aside and confront the real source of inequality in the West: the system of social class.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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