This post is the fifth and final installment of a multi-part series dedicated to trying to understand what’s causing the recent unrest in our country. Click here to read Part One, here to read Part Two, here to read Part Three, and here Part Four.
Is America a Racist Country? Yesterday we included a fascinating article from Ted Anthony of the Associated Press in which he says “the storylines that have long held the nation together are coming apart.” To recap, one storyline asserts that “Americans are part of an epic tale of equality, of optimism and trajectory, a steady path toward prosperity that includes everyone from the melting pot working together to form a more perfect union. Its best days are still ahead.” Conversely, there are those who think “the United States was brutal, unfair from the get-go, colonized by quarreling white European factions that shared little but a tendency to overrun indigenous cultures and hold human beings as property. Its best days, if there really were any, are receding.” One question, tucked away in these competing views of reality, asks: is America a racist country? Below are arguments from each side:
America is not racist: Thomas D. Klingenstein and Ryan P. Williams write for The American Mind, a publication of the Claremont Institute, that “America is a country that has strived, imperfectly but passionately, to live up to its founding promise that all men are created equal. The reckless charge that American law enforcement is ‘systemically racist’ is also not true. As with any large organization of men wielding power, some will abuse that power.” Klingenstein and Williams continue on to say that many citizens believe America is racist, “because this lie has been preached by our universities and media like the Gospel for a generation. From there it has traveled throughout society, particularly among the elite.” In an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, Heather Mac Donald adds that, “This charge of systemic [racism and] police bias was wrong during the Obama years and remains so today.” Mac Donald points first to “a 2015 Justice Department analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department [showing] that white police officers were less likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot unarmed black suspects.” Secondly, Mac Donald notes that in August 2019 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded there is “no significant evidence of antiblack disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by police.” Lastly, she notes that “This past weekend, 80 Chicagoans were shot in drive-by shootings, 21 fatally, the victims overwhelmingly black. Police shootings are not the reason that blacks die of homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined; criminal violence is.”
America is a racist country: Derrick Johnson writes for The Guardian that “black deaths are not a flaw in the system. They are the system.” Johnson says, “We die because we are overrepresented where it hurts, such as poverty and prisons, and underrepresented where it helps, such as higher education, elected office, and the federal judiciary. We die from many causes, but one stands out from all others: racism. We are meant to die or, at the very least, we are not meant to be protected, to be respected, to be valued, to be considered fully human. That is how racism works, and it has operated efficiently throughout American history.” Johnson also points out that “we are 3.5 times more likely to die of Covid-19 than white people. Although Black people are only 13% of the population, we constitute about twice that percentage of US coronavirus cases. This is not because the coronavirus seeks us by color; it is because we suffer from an underlying condition. Say its name. The condition is racism. It is manifest in a lack of opportunity; in economic inequality; in the absence of healthcare; in a biased criminal justice system and mass incarceration; in schools that scream for care; in a denial of truth; and more.” Deirdre McPhillips adds for the U.S. News and World Report that “deaths from police harm disproportionately affect people of color.” Although McPhillips acknowledges “there is not comprehensive government data on the topic, an independently compiled database found that more than 1,000 unarmed people died as a result of police harm between 2013 and 2019, [and] about a third of them were black.”
Flag This: We’ll let you make up your own mind about America. That’s the best part about living in the United States: you’re free to think and say whatever you want. But how does the US compare to other countries? Although it’s slightly dated, Max Fisher published a piece in the Washington Post which maps the world’s most and least tolerant countries. Here’s what the data shows: “Anglo and Latin countries are the most tolerant. People in the survey were most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor in the United Kingdom and its Anglo former colonies the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and in Latin America.” Venezuela and the Domincan Republic were outliers here. On the flipside, “India and Jordan [are] by far the least tolerant.” Egypt and Saudi Arabia don’t score high as well and South Korea is not very tolerant either. “Although the country is rich, well-educated, peaceful and ethnically homogenous – all trends that appear to coincide with racial tolerance – more than one in three South Koreans said they do not want a neighbor of a different race.” Sadly, racism exists in some form in every single country on earth. In the Congo, Ethnic pygmy populations in Central Africa suffer from racialized discrimination from Bantu peoples. In China, 1 million ethnic Uighurs are being held in internment camps. A 2017 Pew Research Center survey indicated Italy as the most racist country in western Europe. Racism in Saudi Arabia extends to allegations of imprisonment, physical abuse, and wage theft, especially of foreign workers who are given little protections under the law. At the end of the day, the real comparison shouldn’t be between the US and other countries. It should be between the US and itself. How can we be better versions of ourselves and better versions of our country on a daily basis? It all comes down to individual responsibility. You are responsible for your own actions and if we can all keep working hard on becoming better friends, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, colleagues, and neighbors, then America as a whole will move closer and closer to the version we want it to be.