Systemic racism is like a civic virus. The virus lingers in the political, economic, social, governmental, etc., body until it is found. This metaphorical definition and explanation clearly illustrate the underlying issue about systemic racism, where the blurriness makes it sometimes difficult to address. Systemic racism also termed “institutional racism,” is the capture of the ideas of a social group and its reflection at various system levels on supremacy over other social groups that influence evaluations, actions, perceptions, and judgment over them. Systemic racism can be seen at multiple levels, including law, regulations, social, economics, and so on. An example glimpsed in the conceptualization of systemic racism in Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton’s 1967 book, “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation” reads as follows:
When a black family moves into a home in a white neighborhood and is stoned, burned, or routed out, they are victims of an overt act of individual racism, which most people will condemn. But it is institutional racism that keeps black people locked in [decaying] slum tenements, subject to the daily prey of exploitative slumlords, merchants, loan sharks, and discriminatory real estate agents. Society either pretends it does not know of this latter situation or is, in fact, incapable of doing anything meaningful about it.
Some schools of thought choose to embrace the issue from another perspective. The likes of Morgan Freeman say, “race has nothing to do with wealth distribution (economic), that it is like religion to him and a good excuse for not getting there.” He said he did not want to talk about race because if it is spoken of, it exists. He said, making it bigger than it is, is problematic. His views beg the question of whether there is systemic racism or not. Deputy editor of The Conversation, Martin LaMonica says it exists and writes:
Systemic racism assumes white superiority individually, ideologically, and institutionally. The assumption of superiority can pervade thinking consciously and unconsciously. One most obvious example is apartheid, but even with anti-discrimination laws, systemic racism continues. Individuals may not see themselves as racist, but they can still benefit from systems that privilege white faces and voices.
Denzel Washington emphasized the importance of making headway in the home when interviewed by Article II. The question was: “The incarceration rates in America’s been a problem, especially as [regards] to minorities and “Roman (film)” delves into the issues around the legal system, do you think we’ve made any headway? And his response was:
“I think it’s more important to make headway in our own house.” He added, “By the time the system comes into play, the damage is done. They’re not locking up 7-year olds”. He recounted the time he was in Chicago, and he saw some little kids on bikes with masks on the side of their heads. He said there were 5 or 6 of them, and the driver said, “Yeah, little Yummys.” According to Washington, he said his response was “Who,” and the driver said, “little Yummys.”
Washington says to the interviewer, “Look Up, google “Little Yummys.” Little Yummy was an 11-year-old murderer. He got murdered when he was 11-year-old by a 14-year-old who’s doing life now. Do you blame the system? Where was his father? It starts in the house; it starts in the home. Where was his father?”.
According to Wikipedia,
The boy’s name was Sandifer, a young member of the street gang, the Black Disciples (BD). After committing murder, arson, and armed robbery, he was murdered by his own fellow gang members who feared he could become an informant, and that he was attracting too much attention towards their activities.
Washington reinforced his point by illustrating how he was the only one out of his three closest friends with a father. He added that because their fathers were not in their lives, they got in trouble, were locked up, and did 15 to 25 years in jail. He said his father was not only a gentleman but his role model. “We could blame the system all we want, but they didn’t lock me nor any of his siblings up. My friends didn’t have anybody to help them. They kept doing what they were doing, and the system got them. The system is rigged, but only the more reason [I can’t help it]”.
Former civil rights activist Bob Woodson seems to echo Freeman and Washington’s opinions. He stated that “blacks ought to be talking about black resilience in the face of oppression and ask themselves the questions of why we are failing now, post segregation, especially when the education system is run by their people.”
How does Chinua Achebe see this? Okonkwo’s character in “Things Fall Apart” seems to underscore the point Achebe was making in his book. He depicted Okonkwo as a man who despised his father’s attitude toward life, and he was willing to work hard to get what life had to offer him. That same hard work was what he wanted his people not to forget and fight for. While Washington, Freeman, and Woodson are not rationalizing the killing of another black man nor belittling it, they seem to emphasize the attitude all people of African ancestry should adopt to overcome “systemic racism.”
There’s validity in every point that is made expressed a community advocate,
“I don’t want people to say they don’t want to sound like they’re making excuses. There are extenuating circumstances always to be considered in each case. It’s just that we can’t deal with it from an individual case but the masses. In the case of the young man that had good parents. How did he get like that? He has a parent who understood the value of their rights, was willing to fight for it, as well as teach him those values. There is no way we can go forward without recognizing the information and understand what our forefathers had to go through in their journeys. They were willing to vocalize the truth. For the young ones who didn’t, why didn’t the community help?
From all points made, the frequency of the incidents and how they were handled is likely to beg the case of systemic racism, whether the current episode of George’s Floyd’s killing was racially motivated or not. Some thought-provoking questions require answers here: How much of the change is willing to stop systemic racism? Can the black social group handle these changes? Does racism toward blacks address all people of color regardless of geographic locations? What has reinforcing the enduring perspectives, principles, and practices of our forefathers got to do with avoiding the traps, which includes charity that should begin at home? Does Chinua Achebe’s perception of Okonkwo’s views on the encroachment on people’s ways on his people in Things Fall Apart or in any of his writings matter?