Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott proclaimed in his rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress last Tuesday that “America is not a racist country.”
There was probably a political reason Vice President Kamala Harris concurred.
Whether one considers the genocide of 50 to 100 million indigenous Americans over several centuries racist is not the subject of this piece.
Neither is the fact that for 200 years we as an entire country maintained and profited from Southern concentration camps on which enslaved Africans and their families were beaten, sold, raped, whipped, and separated.
Neither is the modern policing system born out of antebellum slave patrols which the sacrosanct Second Amendment was written to preserve.
Neither is the rise of “Jim Crow” after President Rutherford Hayes fulfilled his 1876 promise to withdraw federal soldiers from the South after the Civil War, ending Reconstruction.
Neither is the subsequent rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
Neither is voter suppression, poll taxes, redlining, economic disinvestment in majority-Black cities, funding public schools with property taxes, or the private prison industrial complex that African American incarceration overwhelmingly perpetuates.
Whether one considers those characteristics systemically racist shouldn’t be a consideration, especially when an inquiry into police brutality reports unarmed African Americans’ systematic murder and maiming tantamount to crimes against humanity.
Titled “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States,” human rights experts from 11 countries accuse the United States of historic violations of international law, and demand the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to initiate an immediate investigation.
Within its 188 pages, the commission implicates the U.S. of, among other things:
“Violating its international human rights obligations, both in terms of laws governing policing and in the practices of law enforcement officers, including traffic stops targeting Black people and race-based stop and frisk; tolerating an ‘alarming national pattern of disproportionate use of deadly force not only by firearms but also by Tasers‘ against Black people; operating a ‘culture of impunity’ in which police officers are rarely held accountable while their homicidal actions are dismissed as those of just ‘a few bad apples’.”
The report also explains that chokeholds and other violent means of restraint are equivalent to torture.
There is a fundamental difference between bigotry and racism.
Bigotry is an individual act borne out of animus, or at least a feeling of superiority, toward a racial, religious, or ethnic group.
Think of your Fox so-called News, OAN, Breitbart, right-wing hate media aficionado Uncle Ralph at Thanksgiving dinner going off on “illegals,” spouting Tucker Carlson’s “white replacement theory.”
Uncle Ralph and Tucker are bigots.
Racism, on the other hand, is more insidious because one does not have to be a bigot to be unconscious to and participating in the institutionalized racism baked into every facet of American life.
If you’re white and have ever been pulled over, you probably didn’t have to worry about whether that interaction with police would end in death.
Look at how Kenosha, Wisconsin police officers reacted to “blue lives matter” adherent Kyle Rittenhouse after he opened fire and killed two BLM protesters last August.
After he had murdered two and wounded another, he proceeded to walk down the street toward police with his arms up, rifle slung across his chest. Yet not a single police officer stopped him, despite witnesses identifying him as one who just committed murder.
He was allowed to waltz by while police chose to respond to the “bigger threat”–BLM protesters.
He made it all the way back home before turning himself in.
That’s white privilege.
So is police buying Mother Emanuel AME Church massacre perpetrator Dylann Roof food from Burger King after Roof complained to his arresting officers he was hungry.
So are the anti-protest bills being rammed through Republican state legislatures legalizing running over Black Lives Matter protesters.
White privilege undergirds more implicit practices as well, ones even the most “woke” and liberal among us seldom realize.
Take, for example, the “every day racism” of racial bias in the job market.
Resumes of job applicants with Caucasian-sounding names generate about 50 percent more employer interest than ones of applicants with names that “sound” Black.
African Americans are denied home mortgages more than whites despite similar credit worthiness.
African American patients are denied adequate healthcare more than their white counterparts seeking care for the same reasons.
Minorities are more likely to be served harder sentences for non-violence drug offenses than whites.
Funding public education through property taxes is always going to discriminate against inner city school districts, traditionally–and intentionally–under-served.
Lest we forget, Donald Trump started his political career promoting the lie the first African American President of the United States was illegitimate–and it got him elected.
Who can ignore the fact that no white person we know of has gasped “I can’t breathe” with police officers’ knees on their necks, like Eric Garner, George Floyd, Javier Ambler, and Manuel Ellis?
This country was founded on genocide and built on slavery.
From the massacre of Native Americans, the Constitution’s 3/5 compromise, the Electoral College, the Census, fugitive slave acts, the Dred-Scott Decision, Plessy vs. Ferguson, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during WWII, to the 1994 crime bill, racism lies under every rock in America.
Yes, Sen. Scott and Vice President Harris, America is a racist country.
But it doesn’t have to be.
It’s our job to recognize it without making anymore excuses.
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