General Question

crazyguy's avatar

Is it possible to legislate systemic racism out of the US system?

Asked by crazyguy (2997points) 3 weeks ago

We have been hearing loud calls to end systemic racism. My question is rather basic: Is that even possible?

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51 Answers

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hello321's avatar

“Systemic racism” is by definition something that is within the realm of legislation.

Are you sure you’re asking about “systemic racism”? Do you know what that means?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

If you can’t remove the racism from the system then you remove the system from the racists.

si3tech's avatar

@crazyguy First, there would have to be such a situation existing. There is no systemic racism n the United States of America. Facts show the USA is the least racist country on the planet.

ragingloli's avatar

The first step is having people accept that it exists. See above.
The Colonies are not even the least racist country on their own sub-continent.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@si3tech topic is systemic racism not whole country.

Institutional racism or systemic racism is defined as . . .

“The collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour that amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”
The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny,

crazyguy's avatar

@ragingloli I agree 100%. I am not white and have seen much worse racism in other countries. In fact there is one country in which I get my hackles up when I am greeted by the first white person. So I am not certain there is much racism in this country. BUT I am not black.

To me systemic racism implies deliberate discrimination against and picking on members of a particular race. I know this happens against the relatively disadvantaged black people and by the accounts of Obama and others, it happens to black people in most walks of life. However, I have not heard of an incident involving relatively wealthy black people. The point I am trying to make is that what we commonly perceive as racism is not much more than disdain for the economically disadvantaged. My recommended solution is eradication as far as possible of income and wealth inequality.

hello321's avatar

@crazyguy: “To me systemic racism implies deliberate discrimination against and picking on members of a particular race.”

That’s not what “systemic racism” means. At all. I suspected that you didn’t know what it meant when you asked the question.

crazyguy's avatar

@si3tech As I said in my reply to @ragingloli, I am not sure that what exists in this country is disdain for the poor rather than racism.

crazyguy's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 I am not at all certain how to interpret your answer. Does taking the system from the racists suggest anarchy in some way? If so, you will accomplish nothing at all. Because, a new system will arise, with the same attitudes and behaviors as the old one. In order to change attitudes, you need more than anarchy.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@crazyguy Basically to defund all systems that cannot remove racism. Not just the police. A boycott. Or sue them into extinction. Like the mulit-million dollar settlement from the murder of George Floyd. I would start a foundation that lays the foundation for a fair system of law and order, seeing that there is a demand for better government.

I would start my own government services that is better than the joke that we have now.

Even as far as establishing an authorized group to protect citizens from the police. In the moment and not month’s later in a court case.

Demosthenes's avatar

Theoretically yes, but it seems to me that “systemic racism” is often quite broad and involves things that can’t be legislated, like for example, the lack of generational wealth in black American families. I’m not sure how you legislate that. You can remove specific legal barriers, but not all of these problems of racial disparity are due to legal barriers.

hello321's avatar

@crazyguy: “My recommended solution is eradication as far as possible of income and wealth inequality.”

Ummm….isn’t that something that can be legislated – at least within the context of current system?

Also, this statement appears to contradict your support of capitalism.

LostInParadise's avatar

Certainly part of discrimination against blacks is due to discrimination against the poor, but not all of it. This country has a history of racism. It is not that long ago that professional sports would not hire blacks and restaurants would not serve them. Things are a little better now, but there is still a way to go. Can racism be legislated against? Absolutely, as exemplified by the Civil Rights Act.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It is said that you cannot legislate morality. Whether that’s true or not, you can certainly penalize deviation from accepted standards. And that is the point critical to this discussion that the average American infrequently appreciates thus allowing him or her to persist blissfully unaware in a society which is racist to its core. While most of us understand slavery as the hallmark of racism in reference to our country, the institution is such a glaring indictment, that it obscures the basic fact that the United States was established and footed on racism as fundamental to its prosperity and success. After all, in this land of opportunity the “opportunity” that mattered was the expropriation of the place from the “savages” inhabiting it. Thus racism is ingrained in every aspect of our character and permeates our very existence, like it or not. Are things improving? That goes without question. But we must understand that racism is every bit as American as hot dogs and apple pie.

zenvelo's avatar

So one step forward, one step back. @si3tech denies any racism, despite states (Georgia, Iowa, Texas) instituting new laws to discourage minorities from voting.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@zenvelo Funny how that works !

rockfan's avatar


“Facts show the USA is the least racist country on the planet.”

You must be trolling right? That is honestly the most laughable perspective on an issue I’ve read in a very long time.

Do you have sources that backs up this claim?

ragingloli's avatar

You should, for example, look up youtube videos of African American expats detailing their experience living in Germany, and how stark the contrast in encountered racism is, especially at the hands of the authorities.

kritiper's avatar

No, hell no, and uh-uh too. People are going to do (and hate) whatever/whoever they want and no law can change that, like it of not..

hello321's avatar

I think it would really help people to look up the term they are commenting on. “Systemic racism” refers to structures and institutions that perpetuate racial inequality (including education, prison sentencing, policing, housing, lending, etc). It does not refer to an individual’s bias.

So, this question is asking if the very institutions that are the domain of legislation can be…changed via legislation.

stanleybmanly's avatar

That’s it exactly. It’s built in to such an extent that it actually goes unnoticed and is accepted as “normal.” When you think about it, it is extraordinary that a full hundred years after the emancipation of the slaves, attention had to be drawn to the fact that racism is openly accepted as an American characteristic. There was and remains actual consternation at the sight of “troublemakers” complaining about their mistreatment. I remember those days of the firehoses and church bombings, and the howls over those protesting the status quo as dangerous subversives. And if you think racism is no longer an issue, just have a listen to the rhetoric here surrounding BLM. Sounds familiar?

dabbler's avatar

First step, define “the US system”. What system?
There are many “systems” involved, each has a different answer for that system.
Police, schools, shopping… for each the answer might be yes, might be no.

As @stanleybmanly mentioned, you can’t legislate morality, so if your question means eliminate racism from the country completely, the answer is clearly NO you can’t legislate peoples’ thinking.

crazyguy's avatar

@dabbler When I say “the US system” I mean our system of government and free enterprise. Every sub-system that you list has examples of racism. Some of them are individual bias, some may be considered systemic; since you admit that you cannot legislate people’s thinking, I am not sure how you legislate racism out of the system. It is possible to be racist in even the most anti-racist environment. For instance, if a racist is in charge of hiring, and the rules and regulations require a full documented explanation of any rejection of a person of color, just how hard is it to create the required explanation?

Now ask yourself: why would the hiring manager in a private business go out of his/her way to hire a lower-qualified person? Government can mandate affirmative action; however, it is up to each business to set up its documentation to prove that the most qualified candidate was hired in each case. If the most qualified candidate happens to be the sam color as the majority of employees at that company, then diversity just suffered a blow. I say: SO BE IT!
However, if it can be shown, through a lawsuit that the company indulged in racism by rejecting a better qualified colored candidate, then by all means throw the book at such an offending company. If you were buying widgets you would define a MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE TECHNICAL QUALITY and then select on price. However a hiring decision is not made on the basis of technically qualified; it is made on the basis of best fit; best fit is generally a combination of the salary budget and applicant qualifications.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Yes indeed. And if the primary determination is that “best fit” must begin with “white” or “male”? Would you consider these a “conservative” take on “qualified”?

Smashley's avatar

Possibly. The issue is far too pervasive to attack with some omnibus bill, but there are certainly concrete actions that could be done legislatively to walk us back from the place we are. Granting DC statehood, for example, would work against the racism built into the system. Legislating better school funding across the board would also do a lot. Incentivizing locals to become police officers in their own community, too.

crazyguy's avatar

@Smashley I am of the opinion (and I realize it is a minority view) that, unless you squeeze racism out of the majority of people, legislation will not help. And if you succeed in the first, do you really need the second?

Smashley's avatar

I just don’t see racism being “squeezed out” by anything other than changing structures over long periods of time. Systemic racism is often self reinforcing, and creates its own kind of perverse justification.

crazyguy's avatar

@Smashley Let us take something relatively straightforward – college admissions. Because of the demands of affirmative action laws, better qualified individuals get squeezed out because of their skin color.

I personally think that if you minimize government, businesses will understand that, in order to be viable in the long run, they have to be anti-racist. The long-term profit motive will squeeze out shorter-term benefits.

I believe you live in Germany. I am not certain what you experience in Germany as far as racial integration goes. In this country, the percentage of minorities in government jobs is significantly higher than in private companies. I attribute that, not so much to discrimination, but the fact that private companies are more geared to recruiting and hiring the most qualified people, regardless of their skin color.

ragingloli's avatar

With identical résumés, applicants with white sounding names are 50% more likely to receive a response.
So if anything, the opposite of your claim is probably true.

On the Robert Meyer Burnett show, one of the people who wrote in, revealed that he successfully sued a company for discrimination, because they had a practice where any applicant with a black sounding name, instantly got thrown onto a “do not hire” pile.

And in general, the belief that a private company will always make the right decisions based on the profit motive, is simply fantasy.
It is not even true for general business strategy. You think Blockbuster for example, would have gone bankrupt if they made the right decisions?
Anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action exist, because companies and universities engage in racist hiring and admission practices.

Smashley's avatar

@crazyguy – It’s a pretty big statement to suggest that private companies hire exclusively on the basis of qualification. A person’s value to an organization can be incredibly hard to quantify, and even harder to predict. Human frailties come in all colors. I think that if you look at the evidence, you see that those in charge of hiring tend to be biased towards people who’s backgrounds are the most like their own. Volunteer work looks good on CV’s, but another perpective might be “this person didnt need to have a job in high school, and might not have a good work ethic”. A good college increases your chance of being hired, even if you only got in because your parents went there. Being previously hired by another similar firm, with similar biases, also biases hiring managers towards certain candidates. A person who supported three kids while pumping out an undergrad at a public university is rarely seen as as valuable as someone who had everything handed to them.

And no, I don’t live in Gemany. Just another American near the border, remembering when I used to call that place that doesn’t want me home.

LostInParadise's avatar

@crazyguy , I disagree with your contention that legislation does not change attitudes toward race. Imagine a child growing up in the South when blacks were forced to sit in the back of the bus. Seeing that, how could a child not grow up to believe that blacks were inferior? Removing Jim Crow laws makes it more difficult to develop racist attitudes.

crazyguy's avatar

@ragingloli The study you are referencing is about 20 years old. I believe attitudes have changed a little since. However, I accept your point. If you wanted to add a person in your typing pool of all whites you may consider the impact on overall productivity of adding a person of color.. Less so in a professional group. If a lot of collaboration is required, things may be different.

My point was that a private business is more likely to place a higher value on a person’s qualifications than government.

crazyguy's avatar

@Smashley I agree 100%. However, you must admit that a private company may put more weight on a person’s qualifications than government. For instance, if everything else were equal, wouldn’t you rather hire a person with better grades even if s/he is of the wrong color?

Does bias exist? Of course. Can you legislate bias out? I do not think so. You may reduce the impact of bias by carefully crafted laws; however keep in mind that affirmative action has turned out to be quotas in disguise.

crazyguy's avatar

@LostInParadise I believe we, as a people, and the US, as a country, are well past the raw discrimination of the Jim Crow era. The easy pickings are gone. Now comes the hard work of changing people’s basic attitudes. I think racism in this country and in all others will end when a colored person is as likely to be capable as a white person, and is therefore given the same opportunity.

I am not a white. I belong to a South Orange County country club which has its share of colored people. Once in a while I get paired with a group consisting of three whites. Until I prove myself, either through my golfing, or communication, or sometimes bragging, I do feel left out. On the other hand, if a solitary white person hooks up with three Chinese people, or Korean people, the White person is left out completely. Are those instances of racial discrimination? I do not think so. It is just birds of a father flocking together. Can you ever rid society of that? Would you even want to?

Smashley's avatar

@crazyguy – A business doesn’t hire someone based on their qualifications. They hire them based on an assessment of the value they contribute to the organization. This is always a subjective decision, and is all too often a perpetuator of stereotypes. There are anti-discrimination laws for private business, but there is far less oversight than in federal hiring practices.

I can’t find any specific laws placing more weight on people of color within federal hiring practices. I believe quotas are no longer allowed, hail SCOTUS. There are certainly laws against discrimination, and oversight, which might have something to do with the over representation of black people in government jobs. Besides that, the federal government has recognized the organizational strength of diversity, and it’s essentiality in a government “of the people”. This recognition might seem to someone like a kind of racism, but if the strictest accounting of “qualification” is all that can ever be assessed, the system of racial inequity will just perpetuate itself. Affirmative action exists as a concept because the system has demonstrated over and over that it won’t fix itself.

I believe that the best policy will be one that assess poverty and access to opportunity more broadly, which will then have a disproportionate effect of the people of color who would are in need.

LostInParadise's avatar

@crazyguy , Yes I would like to get to a point where race and ethnicity do not make a difference. Why should skin color determine who you hang out with? It is superficial in the most literal sense of the word.

And without protests and civil disobedience by people like Rosa Parks, the Jim Crow era would never have come to an end. If our attitudes have changed, it is largely due to legislation eliminating those laws.

stanleybmanly's avatar

That’s the absolute truth. Those Jim Crow laws and practices were accepted as “normal” and so much so that those complaining were labeled subversives and dangerous threats to the country—exactly as BLM is now. THAT is the lesson. Racism is NOT going away if you simply ignore it.

crazyguy's avatar

@LostInParadise Legislation does not change attitudes. It may change behavior. Most of us prefer our own; few of us have the courage to admit it.

@Smashley You are correct. The overriding objective is indeed the value they are expected to contribute to the organization. Since that is a 100% subjective evaluation, qualifications and prior experience are often substituted as objective measurements.

the federal government has recognized the organizational strength of diversity, That is a statement in perfect keeping with these woke times. Give me the more qualified person any time and I’ll kick the butt of any organization that values diversity more than qualifications!

Smashley's avatar

@crazyguy – Yes, it is a statement perfect in keeping with these woke times. I agree 100%. Diversity is a strength in every ecosystem, though this has been well known for years.

I disagree that your organization beats mine because you don’t see color. Your organization will be subject to internal biases based around things like clothing, hobbies, race, types of schools, gender, types of employment, sound of voice, and your assessment of employee value to your organization will be lacking. You assume that your group will be the most “qualified” but by ignoring your biases, you risk creating a monoculture. While a monoculture might be excellent at doing certain things, it is the most vulnerable to changing environments, and the least sustainable. Diversity is a competitive advantage.

Affirmative value placed on diversity is a way to price the strength of diversity into the subjective hiring decisions made by people on the ground. It should obviously never be the only factor assessed, just as a person’s grades should never be the only thing assessed.

LostInParadise's avatar

@crazyguy , How would you answer a person who said the following: I have nothing against black people, but I feel more comfortable working with my own kind, so it makes good business sense to hire white managers, who can all get along with one another. If a black person has a business and only wants to hire black managers, that would make perfectly good sense to me.

crazyguy's avatar

@LostInParadise You asked your question as a hypothetical. The fact is, that scenario occurs more often than you care to recount. By the way, have you held up a mirror to your own heart and seen where it may lead?

@Smashley What you are saying is that a diverse organization has a competitive advantage over a monocultural organization partly because of biases inherent in monoculture organization. The facts are as follows:

1. You assumed that, just because I choose to hire the most qualified person, regardless of skin color, that I have biases.
2, I did not say that the people I hired have the same assumed biases I do.
3. Sometimes you get fortunate in that the most qualified person is of the right color. Or that the difference in qualifications is so minor as to not make a difference. In those cases your organization may have a leg up on mine. However, in the majority of cases, your organization will be learning to crawl when I am in a full-fledged sprint.

Smashley's avatar

I assume that everyone has biases. It take diversity to draw attention to that fact: to point out your blind spots. If your business is hiring the “best” qualified by a set of rote numbers and scorecards, as you describe, you will, in America, inevitably end up with a business skewed heavily white, and more heavily from a similar background.

Businesses thrive on details much more nuanced than hiring the “best” people. Blockbuster might have hired the “best” people, but forces they were blind to, until too late, drove the mighty brand into bankruptcy. A business must be nimble and flexible, and in touch. Diversity builds that kind of strength. Employees with diverse backgrounds have diverse perspectives and diverse skill sets can help the business meet the challenges of the times. “Most qualified” is a standard favoring elitism, and even the few ambitious folks from diverse backgrounds, who might have risen above it all and achieved everything your scorecard wants, risk being alienated and unhappy in your workplace. You celebrate sameness, and they have only mimicked it.

Choose from a pool of well qualified candidates, a diverse selection of individuals, which is not exclusively a racial assessment, but a personal, cultural and socioeconomic one. You will build a culture where useful disruption is celebrated and made every day.

crazyguy's avatar

@Smashley I agree with you. If everything else were equal, I would say, hire the person of color depending on the racial mix in your country. However, everything else is never equal, especially for a sales, marketing or executive-level employee.

Therefore, you risk falling behind the competition by emphasizing a person’s color over his/her qualifications.

Smashley's avatar

@crazyguy Did I ever say that you emphasize color over qualifications? That may be your impression of affirmative employment, but it is not the theory, or the reality. I’m talking about actively weighting diversity as valuable part of a tapestry of qualifications. And once again, I must repeat apparently, racial diversity is not the only kind of diversity, and it is not the only goal of affirmative employment. I’ve always believed you should address class disparities first, and the racial ones will be adressed because of the makeups of those classes, without making people all racisty about it.

crazyguy's avatar

@Smashley Perhaps you did not say it in so many words, but your line: Choose from a pool of well qualified candidates, a diverse selection of individuals,… says it all to me. Well qualified is ok for a run-of-the-mill commodity-type job, but not for a specialist job like the C-Suite…

Smashley's avatar

@crazyguy It’s probably most important to place value on diversity at the executive level, since their decisions are much more weighty in the overall direction of the company.

crazyguy's avatar

@Smashley I agree 100%. However, that is the level at which “well qualified” becomes a little harder to define.

Smashley's avatar

@crazyguy – Yes, at top levels, hiring decisions can be very subjective. A commitment to diversity is one principle of many to guide us through these difficult assessments.

crazyguy's avatar

@Smashley The only hiring decision that may be swayed by legislation because of the danger of like preferring like in C-Suite…However, since most CEOs are promoted from within the company, the impact of such laws will be minor at best…

stanleybmanly's avatar

This is the BIG mistake conservatives ALWAYS make regarding any and all proposals aimed toward the suppresion of racism. It is the insidious idea that they are measures to put race ahead of talent. It represents a total lack of appreciation on just how ingrained and insidious racism and its consequences are in this country. Forget about c-suite disparities as illustration of the difficulties. There are so many racial mines infesting the the paths to THOSE suites, that the issue of talent versus preference is pointless. A much better and simpler example would be the world of professional sports. And here, for reasons that will become clear, I would pick professional basketball to make my point. Up through the 50s a black man on a professional basketball team

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