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  • Nathan

Racism is American

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

The United States were founded on the bleeding bodies of stolen people.

Racism has seeped from our being, suffused our politics, and suffocated our human inhabitants for centuries.

Please do not call it "un-American".

Racism is violent. It is dangerous. It is pervasive. It shifts shape constantly, to survive and to expand.

Because of those things, we should strive to make the United States a country where racism is neither welcome nor tolerated.

Yet striving for the counterfactual is one thing, and acknowledging the factual another.

We must acknowledge that racism is more American than apple pie, or Hollywood, or Christian sexual shame.

Why should we acknowledge that racism is American?

To deny the racist bent of America is to deny the daily existence of the millions of people that racism continues to beat, break, kill, and starve within our borders in the modern day. This is stoppable. It is preventable. But not if we ignore the cause of all this violence, which is systemic American racism.

What is wrong with focusing on racial progress instead of racism?

The problem is, racial progress and racism are both real. The former is a difficult and endless battle against the latter. Two aspects of reality, both mattering greatly to any analysis we make of the situation.

Racial progress is the product of concerted action against a deeply inertial system. Racism is the system.

When racial progress relaxes, racism surges. This is simply because the system was designed to be racist, not racially progressive. In the absence of counterfactual stress, the racist system relaxes to its racist design specifications.

This is, in fact, what it means to be systemic. The racism is an intrinsic part of the system. It is not a random variable that comes and goes according to chance, or stems from its own victims, as generations of racist American leaders have claimed.

We cannot solve systemic problems by ignoring the systems that generate them

As Robin DiAngelo said: "If you can't see race, you can't see racism." (This in response to the subtly pernicious phrase: "I don't see color".)

If you refuse to accurately diagnose a sickness, you cannot cure it.

You cannot cure your cancer by telling others that you think having cancer is just not something you would ever do.

If we cannot acknowledge the racist roots and foundation of this country, and the continued existence and function of those same racist roots and foundation, then we certainly cannot do the practical work of intelligently dismantling those racist structures.

Racism is not fought by saying "I don't see it" or "It is un-American" or any other platitude.

Racism is fought through intentional, clear-headed work

You cannot be clear-headed when you are hung over. The idea of racism as a random variable is a kind of sociological hangover from centuries of clever advertising by racists.

Racism is fought most effectively with a clear head. Whether those fights are social, political, philosophical, or scientific, they will always encounter attempts to legitimize racism through every distraction and logical fallacy possible. As such, the fight is, always has been, and always will be, exhausting.

To even remain in this fight, we must understand, acknowledge, and admit that what we are dealing with is a deeply inbuilt component of a system that does not wish to give up that component.

Make-believe always gives one's opponents at least as much conceptual cover as it gives one's allies. So let's not pretend.

Stop giving cover to racism, as if it were an act of random chance. Stop saying racism is un-American, as if someone other than the most powerful American leaders through American history were responsible for its strength and prevalence.

When we recognize and admit that racism is very American indeed, we can perhaps begin to identify and dismantle its systemic drivers with clear eyes.


If you have not already, please read Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi.

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