Yes, there is systemic racism in America. The only people who deny this are those who also think gayness is a sickness and the poor are that way because they don’t work hard enough. And of course Donald J. Trump, who sees rapists and murderers hiding in the crowds of Hispanic refugees, terrorists among Muslim refugees, and good people among Scandinavians and Western Europeans wishing to immigrate.

There is systemic racism all over the globe and always has been. Phillip and Alexander of the Macedon Empire felt that Asians needed a dose of true civilization imposed on them for their own good. Today, Han Chinese look down on their 55+ minorities, Azerbaijanis find Armenians to be pathetic, and the Romani people (i.e. gypsies) are unwanted everywhere — even in homeland Romania.

It seems to be a human thing to be clannish and prejudiced about those who do not share a culture that includes language and customary rituals.

Then there is behavior/appearance as a trigger. I came to recently much dislike a Black man seated near me at Coffee Talk in Kaimuki. Nothing to do with his skin color. It was about his boom box playing at full volume a rapper whose every other word seemed to be m*****f*****r. Would I have been happier with a white guy playing some harmless hip hop? Was it also the Black man’s corn-row hair do?

I think we also have some residual racism in our reactions to how people dress, too. Pants worn down below the butt. Non-conformist shirts. Hats and caps. White people tend to judge Black and Hispanic peoples’ dress codes as weird.

Why so many people want to deny systemic racism in America puzzles me. It’s painted large in the Indian Trail of Tears and the Tulsa Race Massacre. It’s the real reasoning behind the Border Wall project. That’s not about Mexicans and other Hispanics stealing jobs. It’s about the fear that Hispanics will out-populate whites in a few years as their reproductive cycle beats ours. The ban on Middle East immigrants isn’t a fear of bombers but one of an Islamic presence challenging our Christian heritage. We don’t want to be France.

There was a typical incident recently in Pittsburgh. The Brazilian wife of the state’s lieutenant governor was in a grocery store and a white woman called her the “n” word and told her “you don’t belong here.” Yes, just one incident but one of the many we read about almost daily somewhere in America.

Why is that, exactly?

Maybe, in America, it is something the academic Robin Diangelo wrote about in her book White Fragility. Western individualism. “Individualism holds that we are each unique and stand apart from others, even those within our social groups.”

And “the racial ideology that circulates in the United States rationalizes racial hierarchies as the outcome of a natural order resulting wither from genetics or individual effort or talent. Those who don’t succeed [poor Blacks, Hispanics, etc.] are just not as naturally capable, deserving or hardworking.”

And Charles Mills in The Racial Contract says that white supremacy, far from being a myth, is actually “the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today.”

In other words, systemic racism has been around for a long, long time.

Denying its existence in this country just protects racial inequality.

We need to own up to it individually, even if our leaders will not.

I encourage your thoughtful comments.


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

7 replies on “It Lives. It Thrives.”

  1. Once people agree it exists, the question is what to do about it. I try and explain that someone can be “at fault” for something but still have a moral duty to correct something. If I buy something and later find it’s stolen, it’s not my fault it was stolen yet I have a duty to return it to its owner.

  2. Thanks for tackling the racism issue which has kept America from being a humane country. Acknowledgment is the first step to change. Being fortunate to travel and live in different areas of the world , live among different cultures, I found that basically the well being of our families is primary. That’s the similarity. We have to stop teaching to hate, looking at others as enemies, as military personnel are taught; Japs, ragheads, gooks, etc. Trump, the great divider, must go!

  3. Its hard to even address “general racism’ when you also have it at the micro level with so many cultures. I have had discussions with people in which they tell me that there is also racism at the “shade level”. What does that mean? In every ethnicity, there are different shades of skin color. One of the more pronounced is in the Black community in which those with a lighter tone and darker tone skirmish. Another one is the Filipino community in which not only is there “shade racism” but there is also “spoke discrimination” against those that don’t speak Tagalog. Are any of these levels of discrimination any different than the outright “black/white” discrimination that we are told about on the evening news? I would say instead of answering that outright, go to Westminster, and Little Saigon in SoCal and ask those Vietnamese who are from Cholon in Saigon whether or not there is more than one level of discrimination that is occurring in this world. I am sure they will be very frank about it.

    1. I remember attending a play in Seattle few years ago that touched on the discrimination in Black shades, high yellow, was a term looked down on. It was an eye opener. That’s interesting about the Filipinos. Of course India has its cast system, so it appears that racism can be anywhere. A big order to overcome since it’s centuries old.

    2. I agree wholeheartedly, yes, we are tribal with DNA by mother nature that says put yours forth into the future, not the other guys. Humans cannot win over mother nature imho. Only 12 percent of the worlds population is Caucasian.

  4. I would like to recommend Isabel Wilkerson’s new book “Caste: The Origin of our Discontents.” Anyone with empathy who reads this book will never question that we Americans do indeed suffer from systemic racism. It is undeniable. In my opinion, Wilkerson has emerged as the greatest analyst of our age in America. The book is tough to take because her examples taken from real life are very painful to contemplate. But that pain is proof it’s all true

  5. Perhaps the reason some people rail against the notion of “systemic racism” is because currently it is only applied to certain minorities. White people’s guilt is now in vogue. And
    “society” currently focuses on discrimination aimed in one direction. But, if we engage in
    intellectual honesty, we’d be condemning ALL forms of discrimination and not even stressing the word “racism” because it has a specific definition. How ’bout this: the “N” word is outlawed, but “cracker” or “F—ing Haole” is not. The President of the US keeps calling it the “Chinese” disease and his drones cheer him on with little condemnation from whites or blacks. We have violence between Black and Asians in mainland neighborhoods over grocery stores. Who is the racist there ? National pride World-wide among Asians, Africans, Latinos is a major problem. Want to discuss religious discrimination? That’s not racism. No question, there is racism. But the word is overused and abused and is losing its meaning. The bigger problem, since Caveman times, is tribalism. Sadly, that begins from birth and may never change.
    So, No, Bob, your feelings are not likely racist because some clown is blasting a boom box with socially disagreeable language in a public coffee bar and you are annoyed. More likely, you don’t like bad manners.

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