State Sen. Lena Taylor
Op Ed

Stop Denying Systematic Racism

It’s real and affects all our policies and institutions.

By - Jul 19th, 2020 01:53 pm
George Floyd protest on June 6th, 2020 by Maddy Day.

George Floyd protest on June 6th, 2020 by Maddy Day.

Whether or not we appreciate it, George Floyd’s death has been a catalyst for re-examining systems, polices and institutions in America. Every issue is on the table from policing, employment, confederate monuments, housing, to the TV show, the Batchelor! The intersection of these issues and race have long been problematic and they continue in many forms today.

While subject matter experts, policy makers and academics, agree that systemic racism is real and remains in varying forms in this country, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said “I don’t believe there is systemic racism in the U.S.” This comment came after glaring racial disparities were evident in unemployment numbers. While things are getting back on track for some, other continue to struggle. Specifically, African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics continue to be unemployed at nearly double the rates of whites.

Many of you may ask why am I surprised by Kudlow’s response. Afterall, when June job numbers showed a drop in unemployment, it was his boss that said “Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying, ‘There’s a great thing that’s happening for our country.” Seriously, Donald Trump said that the employment numbers were a “great day for him (George Floyd). It’s a great day for everybody. There’s a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.” I’m going to step out on a limb and disagree with the “Denier in Chief.” At that time, unemployment rates for whites fell 2.3% points to 10.1%, while the rate for black people dropped 1.4 points to 15.4%.

The unemployment numbers that were put out this week tell a similar story. Roughly 1.3 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits during the second week of July, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department. The unemployment rate for whites fell to 9%, for other groups it hovered near 15%. Historically, we know that there are a number of factors that play into employment.  A review of the numbers reveals systemic problems in education, opportunities, and hiring. But perhaps, Kudlow needs a definition of systemic racism.

A recent article, in the USA today, offered two definitions: NAACP President Derrick Johnson defined systemic racism, also called structural racism or institutional racism, as “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages African Americans.”

Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines, defined it as “the complex interaction of culture, policy and institutions that holds in place the outcomes we see in our lives.” For me, there are examples of these policies, practices and outcomes that show up in our everyday “systems” of education, banking, law enforcement and even in state government. From the homes we own, the healthcare we receive, to our experience at polling locations, systemic disenfranchisement and racism are prevalent. Kudlow and Trump are trying to sell the American people a bill of goods, but we ain’t buying it. These systems are not accidental or non-existent. They are simply denied.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, is a member of the Wisconsin State Senate.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

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