Mention racism on this site and immediately I get negative reactions from a few white folks.
It seems we are eager for everyone to understand that we "get it" and that we are no longer racist in our view of the world, and neither are any of the systems or institutions with which we have anything to do.
Usually those who respond as innocent of my charge will catalog the proof of the absence of personal prejudice in their lives. Many go on to argue that we are in a new day in the U. S., that racism has been overcome, and that to continue to discuss it is counterproductive at best.
On Monday the U. S. Supreme Court, in a case involving the very obvious disparities in mandatory sentencing rules imposed on courts by the Congress for offenses involving the use of powdered cocaine compared to crack cocaine, ruled that judges can use their traditional discretionary authority to impose reasonable sentences, even if federal guidelines direct some other verdict. In essence the court ruled that judges can ignore the sentencing requirements that make the use of crack cocaine more legally objectionable than the use of the powered variety.
So, sentences against African American crack cocaine users have been much harsher than those rendered against more affluent, white users of cocaine in powered form. In short, blacks have not received equal treatment under the law in thousands of cases.
Systemic racism often works against black Americans in a manner that often devastates families and communities. This racism may have nothing to do with the way some individual white people feel about their black neighbors. But, the power of the racism embedded in the Congressional mandate for mandatory sentences for certain crimes is blatantly racist and affects the African American community in a disproportionately negative manner.
For years I've watched crack users receive much stiffer sentences than those who used powdered cocaine. Both are devastating. Most users need lots of help.
What black folks don't need are stiffer sentences for the same violation of the law as whites.
The same kind of systemic racism can be observed when looking carefully at the administration of death penalty sentencing. Black who are convicted of capital crimes against whites receive death sentences at a significantly higher rate than do whites who kill blacks or blacks who kill other blacks.
Racism is insidious. It is still very much alive in our culture. Unfortunately, the fact that you really aren't personally prejudiced is simply not enough.