The myth of systemic racism prevents black achievement in America

We keep hearing about the need for a conversation about race, specifically a conversation about the misery the black community experiences from being oppressed by the systemic racism of the white people of the United States.  The endless conversation hasn't done much beyond harming race relations, but maybe there is some systemic racism in the United States.  Let's look at three examples of systemic racism that are oppressive to black Americans.

The first is affirmative action for black students applying to college.  Was there ever a time when it made sense to admit a student to an elite school based on his skin color?  Affirmative action only led to a mismatch between what students could achieve and what they were expected to achieve.  In 1998, in California, Proposition 209 eliminated racial preferences in college admissions.  UCLA was particularly hard hit, as it had been using massive racial preferences to favor admitting black students.  However, once Proposition 209 eliminated the mismatch, blacks graduated from UCLA at the same rate as before, even though fewer blacks were admitted to the school.  Black students were no longer patronized by the idea that they couldn't handle education at an elite school without the benefit of government interference.

Image: Ahmose Nefertari.

The second example of systemic racism is the demand for reparations.  Of course, people who never owned slaves don't owe anything to people who never were slaves, but somehow the idea of a government handout keeps coming up.  Burgess Owens, a former NFL player, sums up how degrading reparations are.  "The conversation of reparations ... conveys a racist narrative that Black Americans are a hopeless, hapless, and oppressed race who need pity and handouts to succeed."

The third and final example of systemic racism is the recent offering by Jada Pinkett Smith, who produced a show about Cleopatra, with the Egyptian queen portrayed by a black actress.  This particular issue is not as far-reaching as reparations or affirmative action, but it may be the most ignominious of all.  Smith says that her goal was to represent black women.  I think it's odd that she didn't choose an authentically black queen, like Nandi of the Zulu or Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa of West Africa's Ashanti Empire.  If Smith wanted a black Egyptian queen, she could have produced a show about Ahmose Nefertari.  Although her name is often confused with Nefertiti, Nefertari was a different woman, an Egyptian queen of Nubian descent, and she is portrayed in paintings and statues as very black.

It discredits the black community to suggest that the only way to show a powerful black woman is to take a powerful non-black queen and race-swap her with a black actress.  Smith acts as if there aren't any black queens from Africa worthy of her attention.

The saddest thing is that, although these things denigrate the black community, there are far too many blacks who are happy to embrace these ideas.  Before the Civil War, blacks fought to cast off their chains.  During the Civil Rights Movement, blacks fought for equality.  Today, when there are no slaves, and there is equality before the law and equal opportunity for advancement regardless of race, too many blacks are forging their own chains, an example of systemic racism carried out by blacks against themselves.

Pandra Selivanov is the author of The Pardon, a story of forgiveness based on the thief on the cross in the Bible.

If you experience technical problems, please write to