Last Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was added to the long list of Republicans who denied the existence of systemic racism in that country. Graham said on “Fox New Sunday” that “our systems are not racist. America is not a racist country.
Graham argued that the country cannot be racist because Barack Obama and Kamala Harris were elected and somehow overcoming racial barriers proves the absence of racial barriers. His opinion seems to be that the exceptions somehow override the rule.
In rebuttal of President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, South Carolina’s other senator, Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, pardoned Graham and became an apologist for these denials of racism, also claiming that the country was not racist. He argued that people “make money and gain power by pretending that we have made no progress, by doubling the divisions that we have worked so hard to heal.”
Scott’s argument seems to leave open the possibility that America may have summer a racist country but that it has matured, that it has passed to egalitarianism.
Personally, I don’t think highly of Scott’s reasoning skills. This is the same man who said in March that “awakened supremacy” whatever it is “is as bad as white supremacy.” There is no world in which recent enlightenment efforts can be equated with slavery, lynching and mass incarceration. Nothing.
It seems to me that the lack of sincerity on the issue of racism is largely a question of language. The question turns into another question: “What, for you, America?” Is America the people who now inhabit the earth, separated from its systems and history? Or, does the meaning of America include these systems and this history?
When people say that the American is a racist country, it does not necessarily mean that all or even most Americans are consciously racist. However, it’s important to remember that nearly half of the country just voted for a full-fledged Donald Trump racist, and they did so by either denying his racism, becoming apologists, or embracing it. applauding. What do you call a country like that?
Historically, however, there is no doubt that the country was founded by racists and white supremacists, and that much of this country’s initial wealth was built on the backs of enslaved Africans, and a great deal part of the initial expansion came at the expense of slaughtering the land’s indigenous peoples and breaking treaties with them.
Eight of the first 10 presidents personally enslaved Africans. In 1856, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wrote on the Dred Scott case, in an infamous decision to be delivered in 1857, that black people “had been regarded for more than a century before as beings of an inferior order, and quite incapable of associating with the white race, whether in social or political relations; and so inferior, that they had no rights that the white man was required to respect.
The country continued to wage a civil war over whether certain states could maintain slavery as they wished. Even some people who advocate and fight for an end to slavery had expressed their white supremacist beliefs.
Abraham Lincoln said during his famous debates against Stephen A. Douglas in 1858 that among whites and blacks “there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor. from the top position. being assigned to the white man.
Some will concede the historical point and insist on the progress point, arguing that it was then and is now, that racism just does not exist now as it did then. I would agree. American racism has evolved and become less brutal, but it has not become less effective. The knife has simply been sharpened. Today the systems are doing the job that once required the overt actions of masses of individual racists.
So what does it mean for a system to be racist? Does the name depend on whether the system in question is openly, explicitly top-down racist, or simply that there is some degree of measurable bias built into these systems? I affirm the latter.
America is not the same country it used to be, but neither is it the country it claims to be. On one level, it is a tension between American idealism and American realism, between an aspiration and a current condition.
And the precise way we word the statement makes all the difference: America’s systems – like its criminal justice, education, and medical systems – have a pro-white / anti-black bias, and an extraordinary part of America denies it. or defends these prejudices.
As Mark Twain once said: “The difference between the right word and the right word is really a big question. “This is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning bolt.”
Being imprecise or indecisive with our language on this subject contributes to the obscurity – and the myth that the question of whether America is racist is difficult to answer and therefore the subject of real debate among honest intellectuals.
To say that America is racist is not a radical statement. If it requires a longer explanation or definition, so be it. The fact, in the end, is not changed.
The Times commits to publish a variety of letters For the publisher. We would love to hear what you think of this article or any of our articles. Here is some advice. And here is our email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the Opinion section of the New York Times on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and Instagram.