It is impossible to consider one area of systemic racism in isolation
I write this in response to the editorial published in the April 29 issue of The Planet titled “The circular logic of systemic racism” by Ben Shapiro. I sincerely hope this paper would pause before considering publishing a piece by Ben Shapiro again. He is not a conservative commentator; rather, he is a polemicist ideologue who got his start with a website that tagged articles as “Black Crime” and currently sells coffee mugs labeled “Leftist Tears.”
It is impossible to consider one area of systemic racism in isolation. For example, the system of chattel slavery in the South led directly to the disenfranchisement by Jim Crow laws, which led to lack of representation in Congress, which allowed discriminatory housing laws to be passed, which led to ghettoization
and the poverty of the inner cities, which led to increased police presence, etc., etc. Despite the term having a much broader meaning, I will limit this letter to responding to Shapiro’s claims regarding policing.
The overwhelming majority of professionals who study crime and crime statistics agree that Black Americans are about thee times more likely to be shot during a police encounter than whites. They are also more likely to get pulled over, get arrested for drugs, be detained by “stop and frisk” policing and receive longer sentences than whites despite committing the same crime. It is possible to find some people who disagree with this consensus, but it is also possible to find people who profess to be historians that claim the root cause of the Civil War was something other than an attempt to maintain the institution of Slavery. These people are vastly outnumbered by reputable historians at reputable universities. Similarly, history and data point to the existence of systemic racism in many areas of society, policing included.
The presence of systemic racism in policing doesn’t mean that every officer is bad, but it does make it easier for the bad ones to do bad things. America saw it 30 years ago when a crowd of LAPD officers thought they could get away with hitting and kicking Rodney King while he was on the ground, and we saw it last summer when Derek Chauvin thought he could strangle a man to death in front of a crowd without any consequences. This is why the George Floyd case went national. Not because it was a “man bites dog” anomaly, but because it was a caught-on-tape illustration of the fact of systemic racism. And to steal a line from Shapiro, facts do not care about your feelings.