John McWhorter’s that is. He’s pictured here. He’s a linguist professor at Columbia University, where he also teaches philosophy and music history. His research speciality is creole languages.
Like most linguists he hates the sloppy use of words and grammar, but in this article he goes after the recent term “systemic racism” because he thinks it’s useless, unhelpful and racist itself.
But if the mantra is that what we need to do to solve black America’s problems is “get rid of systemic racism,” we’re in trouble. That analysis, be it explicit or tacit, is based on a third-grader’s understanding of how a society works. More importantly, that analysis does not help black people and often hurts us.
I’m always amused by academics who can’t see the political aspects of what they’re discussing, in this case the simple fact that “systemic racism” is far too politically useful to the Left at the moment to stop being used.
It’s useful in two ways.
First, it puts opponents on the back foot in the same way that hurling the simple word, “racism” does, but with the added benefit of not sounding like a direct attack. The Leftist is not actually calling you a racist – just the system in which we all live; the implication being that if you don’t want to radically change the system it’s likely because you’re privileged by it and… well, you know… You’re a….
McWhorter actually does get this visceral aspect and argues that it’s one of the reasons why the approach is so useless in solving real problems – but he still grants good faith to the people using the term.
The second reason is that it can be used to explain away a multitude of failures in Left-wing institutions that have been built over the last hundred years. Are Blacks and other “People of Colour” (POC) falling behind in education, healthcare and social welfare stats? Well, the explanation is not that Public Health, Public Education and Public Welfare are shoddy structures with poor incentives, or even counter-productive ones built in. No, the explanation is that they’re systemically racist.
Where will it get us, beyond thrilling rhetoric, to pretend that with racism, the difference between past and present doesn’t matter? Most of us get that this is, in the present tense, “racism without racists.”
I can see real problems for the Left in pushing this theory, since the initial proposed solution is a basic re-programming of the minds of all the White people in those institutions. Such brainwashing strategies have a bad history of cruelty and failure. As it fails the next logical step will be to create separate entities for POC: a separate healthcare, education and welfare system.
Is this sounding familiar to you as a New Zealander? It should as He Puapua hoves into view. Ye Olde Tyme Leftie Chris Trotter is already shitting bricks about the implications for his beloved Public world, as he should be.
But back to McWhorter’s critique of “systemic racism” in the US. The article specifically looks at the failure of Black kids in US education – but the argument used there is used in all the other areas of society; that the discrepancies between Black kids education and other American groups is due to systemic racism. This theory has the official stamp of the US government and legal system with the approved term being “Disparate Impact”: if there is disparate impact then it means that racism is present, even when explicitly non-racist practices are used.
McWhorter lists the usual reasons for Black school failure: lousy schools and Black families that perhaps don’t have the “cultural capital” to invest in their kids (unlike Asian families especially). But he points out that the gap exists in good schools and that “hard-pressed, semi-educated” Caribbean and African immigrant families get their kids into top schools.
He then references a detailed study done in 1997 of the attitudes that Black kids have to schools and education:
I know of no study that more elegantly gets across a subtle but determinative difference between how black and white kids tend to process the school thing. For the black kids, school is something “else,” something for “them,” beyond the comfort zone; for the white kids, it is part of the comfort zone.
Casteel’s study pointed up a quieter aspect of something richly documented nationwide – a sense among black teens that school is “white” and that real black kids don’t hit the books.
But precisely because Casteel’s study did not blame racism the study is argued against by Black academics, even though:
a) Note that our issue here is not assailing black kids for being lazy students.
b) We cannot fall back on the idea that the kids’ white teachers were “racisming” them, because the black kids said they did their work for the teacher, just not their parents.
c) Casteel was not a white Republican or anything close. He is a black man, having been a career educator among many things, deeply devoted to helping the black community.
But what would such a man know compared to someone with a PhD in some aspect of Critical Race Theory?
McWhorter tackles the non-solution of “Systemic Racism” head on:
“Undoing the racism in the system,” in this light, is word magic, not an intelligent prescription for change in the real world.
If our only approach must be to show that we aren’t racists by “eliminating the racism” embedded in societal procedures, then of course the new idea is that we should eliminate whatever it is that is challenging black students. Just tear it down.
But here is where we get whites smiling nervously and pretending to think that actually getting the answer is white, that being competitively tested is white (unless, I guess, it’s on a basketball court or in a rap battle?), that being expected to raise your hand and give an answer is white.
Which leads to this killer point:
And anyone who misses that this is exactly the way Strom Thurmond wanted it is all but working to be ignorant.
Of course that’s “anti-racism” in a nutshell.
A different solution is proposed:
It would seem that our solution to the kind of thing Casteel identified is putting extra effort into training black kids for tests, getting the word out among them about the value of collaboration in studying (which blunts the idea that studying is not what “we” do), valuing black kids learning next to each other in solid charter schools over the idea that they are better off learning next to middle class white kids (despite some evidence of slightly better performance in such cases – priorities will differ), and other things.
But of all of our strategies, “get rid of the racism” is the goofiest, most unreasoning and ultimately most harmful.
Well sure, but that’s the academic in him. Politically “systemic racism” is incredibly useful for the Left, so the harm does not matter, but read the whole thing anyway.
Well looky here –White privilege’ is infecting the education system – H/T Homepaddock:
“Teachers are being shown videos that instruct them to list their ‘privileges’ and view their students in terms of racial groupings. The training modules we have seen state that ‘education is a form of symbolic violence’ and that the structure of school day doesn’t work for Pacific learners who ‘are not tuned into the different parts of the day’.
As I keep saying, focusing on the USA is worthwhile because almost all of what develops there turns up in New Zealand sooner or later. Also keep note of the “Right-Wing” politicians and activists of the National Party as they mindlessly repeat the term “systemic racism”.
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