The Legacy of Racism
The legacy of racism in our country it’s not structural, it is not systemic, it’s not even economic. The most pervasive and damaging legacy of racism in America is psychological; the inability of some people to look beyond race, and the constant inclination to view every issue through the lens of race. The real “white privilege” in America is that psychologically most white people are able to view themselves as individuals and not part of their racial group. They’re able to embrace the concept of a color-blind society because they have not had the history of being discriminated against based on their race. While minority groups who have suffered under the legacy of discrimination have a much more difficult time seeing themselves as individuals, and not a member of their race, and it is that psychological inability that prevents many minorities from excelling the way they are capable of.
If people have not suffered discrimination, then it is easier to embrace the concept that success is determined by what they do, how hard they work, how smart they are, how well they mastered the task at hand. But if they have experienced discrimination, then it is much more difficult to separate out the point of their discrimination as a determining factor in their success. So, if people believe that a factor outside their control determines their success or failure, they may not even try because every effort they make will be thwarted by the rigged society they live and work in. Many of these people believe they are defeated before they even begin because psychologically the legacy of discrimination has told them that there is no use to even try.
This is the danger of the push to indoctrinate Critical Race Theory into our children at school. Telling one group of kids they are inherently and irreversibly evil solely because of their race, and another group they are perpetually victims because of their race brings out the worst in people, not the best. Framing everything through the lens of race, and rejecting the idea of a color-blind society is perpetuating and exacerbating this psychological legacy of racism. Telling minority groups that white people will always keep you down, or telling white people that your success is only due to “white privilege” not only presents an inaccurate depiction of America, but affixes the wrong psychological mindset in people as to what determines their success or failure.
This is why diversity and affirmative action programs are destructive to the very groups they aim to help. These programs make a statement that society is racist, that white people are oppressors, and minorities are oppressed, so people have little to no control in determining their futures. Suddenly, every outcome is blamed on discrimination. The concept of personal accountability becomes lost amid the constant racial finger pointing. How does re-embedding racism into the minds of our citizens erase the psychological impact of our racist past?
Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” But if you can blame your “quiet desperation” on racism, and parlay it into a cottage industry of getting preferred status in college admissions, or a leg up in the job pool, or even receive a few hundred-thousand-dollar check for reparations, who wouldn’t fall into the mind space of diversity?
Sports Reporter Rachel Nichols recently parted ways with her employer ESPN after an alleged affirmative action dispute became public. She fell into the diversity trap when she was inadvertently recorded on a video call complaining about being passed over for an assignment that was contractually hers, in favor of a black female, due to racial diversity. She said, “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world… If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”
So, when she was benefitting from “diversity”, getting assignments over men because she is a woman, she was all for it, but when she was hurt by diversity, losing a job to a black woman because she is white, she suddenly became against “diversity”. To Nichols, diversity was great until it came for her job. And that completely summarizes what diversity is, people selfishly exploiting race or gender to benefit themselves only, and not their race or gender. Does Maria Taylor getting that assignment over Rachel Nichols help one black person living in failing communities in our disintegrating cities? No. Does Rachel Nichols hiring over a man help one woman living in poverty or get out of an abusive relationship? No. Those hirings helped those two people only.
Maybe Maria Taylor is better than Rachel Nichols, maybe she isn’t. Maybe Rachel Nichols is better than the men who she pushed out the door, or maybe she wasn’t. I don’t think there are objective standards to judge sideline reporters or studio sports hosts, but you make a mockery of your profession when you reduce those standards to race and gender. And Rachel Nichols made a mockery of herself when she happily waved the flag of diversity when it got her jobs, but decried it when she was impaled by the same flag.
And this is the danger of all these so-called diversity initiatives. You don’t replace one form of sexism with another form of sexism, you don’t replace one form of racism with another form of racism. Racism and sexism is the codification of ignorance and evil. They do not become less ignorant and less evil based on who benefits and who is hurt by these prejudices.
The criteria Joe Biden used to name his running mate was a “woman of color”. He said that openly, and repeatedly. And nobody batted an eye. We accepted that criteria as if it were normal, made sense, what was best for the country. But in fact, it was completely opposite of all those things. Did Rachel Nichols complain about Biden’s criteria for Vice President? No. I’m sure she thought it was a great thing. Biden did not talk about qualifications, experience, or any of the characteristics that constitutes a good Vice President. He only talked about race and gender as the criteria. And because there was no pushback, we are stuck with an unqualified disaster of a Vice President who is one heart-beat of a 78-year-old man with early onset dementia away from being President. And as we view what is happening to our country and the world in the last 7 months, how qualified and capable our President is matters.
At one point not so long ago, we, as a nation, wanted to get past race; we strived for a post-racial America. But it seemed that the moment we touched it, it was gone. Maybe, certain politicians saw that there was no political hay to be made from a post-racial America, or maybe a level playing field was too scary, or maybe psychologically our legacy of racism will never be replaced.
But to echo Dr. King’s beliefs, we should be judged by the content of our character, our abilities, our work ethic, our production, not by the color of our skin or our gender. We get worse as a nation every time we use race or gender as the defining characteristic of a person. That is the stain in our nation’s history. But the racism and sexism that permeated society for so long, that we fought so hard to defeat, now are back, only cloaked in a different form, and unjustly benefitting different groups.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.