Is There Official Systemic Racism in the U.S.A. Today?

Those who feel that “systemic racism” still exists in the U.S.A. today cannot give convincing examples of it and completely ignore the undeniable success of the South’s black civil rights movement.  This struggle can be traced back to December 1955 when Rosa Parks, a black woman member of the NAACP, sat down in the “For whites only” area of a segregated public bus and refused to give up her seat.  This spontaneous act sparked the growth of a massive movement within the black Christian churches to eliminate all forms of racial segregation laws in America.  In time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a black Baptist minister who believed in the non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi, emerged as the most visible, effective, and charismatic leader of the revolution to end Jim Crow laws legalizing racism.  Support for this movement grew rapidly within America’s Judeo-Christian population and eventually attracted the support of everyone who believed in equal protection under the law. The election of John F. Kennedy (JFK) as president of the United States in 1960 put a strong believer of the civil rights movement into the White House itself.

JFK supported congressional legislation to end racial discrimination laws once and for all, but Southern Democrats blocked its passage.  The tragic assassination of JFK on Nov. 22, 1963 left his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, to finally get Kennedy's Civil Rights Act passed in July 1964.  The final vote in the Senate was 73 for the Act and 27 against it.  In the House, 290 voted for the Act and 130 against it.  The Southern Democrats, who conducted a 74-day filibuster against this Act, were finally defeated.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 proved to be sweeping and irresistible.  It outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin anywhere in the United States.  It banned segregation in schools, employment, public accommodations, and voter registration laws that discriminated against American blacks.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 naturally led to the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 which threw out the national-origins quota system and replaced it with one based on merit and humanitarian considerations.  Within a period of 10 years, the civil rights movement succeeded in putting in place the legal framework to liberate the U.S.A. from the legacy of slavery.

One of the most dramatic examples of the success of these two laws is the successful integration of Vietnamese refugees into America.

By 1975 the U.S. government decided that Vietnam War was a lost cause and decided to completely evacuate its troops there.  Along with its troops, the U.S. evacuated and absorbed about 125,000 Vietnamese refugees who did not want to live under communist rule.  With the help of American religious and civic groups, the U.S. government resettled these refuges all over the country. The Vietnamese-American population reached 231,000 in 1980, more than doubled to reach 543,000 in 1990, almost doubled again to total 988,000 in 2000, increased to 1,241,000 in 2010, and reached a population of 1,343,000 in 2017. 

The absorption and resettlement of an alien population by the U.S., one with a different culture, language, and race, occurred peacefully without any serious resistance from indigenous Americans.  However, this success story does not end here.

In 2017, U.S. households headed by a Vietnamese-American had a median income of $65,643, while those that were headed by a U.S.-born non-Vietnamese American had a median income of $61,372, less than that of the Vietnamese family!  Clearly, given the opportunity to prosper in complete freedom, the Vietnamese immigrants took full advantage of it and succeeded.

The successful integration of Vietnamese refugees into American society proves that this country is wide open to industrious immigrants regardless of their race, color, language, sex, or religion. 

The history of immigration from Africa to the U.S.A. is equally instructive.

According to a Pew Research Center article published on Jan. 24, 2018, the number of foreign-born African immigrants in the U.S. was 816,000 in 1980.  This number almost doubled to 1,447,000 in 1990, almost doubled again to 2,435,000 by the year 2000, and reached 4,173,000 by 2016, over five times what it was in 1980!  And according to Pew, these immigrants are highly educated and doing well financially, too. Since there are still vestiges of tribalism in Africa, these immigrants included people from different national, linguistic, ethnic, racial, cultural, and social backgrounds, and yet they were willingly accepted into this country and seamlessly integrated into our culture.  The monotonic, exponential increase of African migrants to the U.S.A. over the last 40 years demonstrates that American culture is based on freedom, ability, and merit, not race.

In the December 2018 issue of Gallup World Poll it was reported that more than 750 million adults worldwide wanted to permanently migrate if they had the opportunity to do so.  At the top of the list of the most desired destinations of the potential migrants stands the U.S.A. – 158 million want to come here, over four times greater than the second country on this list (Canada, with only 47 million).  Equally important, Gallup reported on March 24, 2021 that 42 million people living south of Texas want to migrate to the U.S.A.  Clearly, more potential migrants from around the world would rather come and live in the U.S. by far than anywhere else.  Internationally, the U.S.A. is perceived to be wide open to immigrants with talent and ability, not on anything else.

In one lifetime (mine), the civil rights movement eliminated all forms of racial discriminatory laws in the U.S.A.  There isn’t a single racist federal, state, or local law left. America has succeeded in transforming itself into the freest, most diverse, tolerant, fair, prosperous, popular, and inclusive country on the face of the Earth.  Every American should be proud of this great achievement.

One final note. Some Americans often confuse economic and political freedom (non-discrimination) with equal outcome of success in the workplace. If a company is seeking to hire a Ph.D. in physics, to even be considered for the job, an applicant must, of course, have a Ph.D. in physics.

According to the American Institute of Physics analysis published in February 2021, in the two-year period of 2018 and 2019, out of a total of 1,910 Physics Ph.D.s produced by our graduate schools, 42 (2.2%) were Hispanic-Americans, only 9 (0.47%!) were African-Americans, 92 (4.8%) were Asian-Americans, 860 (45%) were white, and 887 (46%) were non-U.S. citizens.

With figures like these, it is clear why the percentages of African-American (12.3% of the population) and Hispanic-Americans (12.3% of the population) Ph.D.s in physics in our workforce are drastically under-represented.  If you do not have a Ph.D. in physics, you simply cannot apply for a position that requires it!  To make this point unmistakably clear, it is not the fault of American companies that they employ so few blacks and Hispanics Ph.D.s in physics - there simply are not enough of such Ph.D.s to consider hiring.  In other words, racism has absolutely nothing to do with these minority employment disparities.

Ivan Kramer has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of California, Berkeley, 1967.

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