Commentary: Is it really systemic racism, or is it something else?

Commentary: Is it really systemic racism, or is it something else?
June 17
15:05 2020

By Dr. English Bradshaw

“All aboard! Now boarding on Track 1A, American Express Liner to the City of Great Again with stops at Klansville, Lynchburg, Hanging Tree, and all points captured and occupied. The train is now leaving the station as regularly scheduled. Last Call!”  

How well do I remember riding that train since I was knee high to a grasshopper.

So now, here I am, all grown up in the City of Great Again with all the accoutrements of a refined old critter. I fought many wars at home and abroad, educated as a hilt, and oftentimes succored as a vagabond prince. Nonetheless, regardless of my station and assignment, I was nurtured with the pablum of Plato’s empirical commonsensical Particulars and Aristotelean metaphysical Forms of abstraction and utopia. 

These two pillars (practical v. abstraction) set the groundwork for a world-shaping event that occurred on a hot July day in 1777 when some white men wearing wigs and sequin trousers penned a Declaration stating that man is endowed by his creator with certain inherent and inalienable rights, including the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

This Declaration also declared that if the people have been denied these rights, they have the right to rebel against their government. Ten years later, following much misogynous self-indulgences, these rights appeared in a Constitution which included a defaulted reasoning of superiority that all men are created equal.

Armed with the assurance of the protection granted by these divine papyrus, black people have traveled this journey through Klansville, Lynchburg and Hanging Tree. They have braved the scars and merits attributable to Hannibal or Askia Mohammed, while battling the hydra-headed monster of superiority which has morphed into what is characterized  systemic racism. And now, following a sorrowful Trail of Tears for 450 years, fraught with attack dogs and water hoses, cattle prods, choke holds and tear gas, the scabies of racism has been uncovered with all of its insidious devastations it has left in its wake.

I have a different characterization of “systemic racism.” In my view, this is not systemic racism, it is “systemic contradiction.”  Logically, you cannot define anything that has no validity for existence. Since “race” is a concocted invention for perpetuation of white supremacy, it cannot, according to Aristotle, be defined in terms of itself. There are no evidential definitions for “race”; so if there are no definitions, how are we going to deal with it? That is in the same sense that you must have some idea of intrinsic or empirical “goodness” in order to define “good” or “horseness” to define “horse.” These century-old contradictions were wrestled with by Seneca, Zeno and Epicurus and found a very simple solution in Socrates: “Know thyself.” Is this the cradle of “color-blind racism?”

This contradiction now faces the nation. How can we solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions? How can today’s questions of equality and justice be resolved with Jim Crow solutions? 

When there is systemic contradiction, there is the de-sacralization of all inviolable (inalienable) sanctities like freedom and privacy that is corrupt to society. “Inalienable” refers to that which cannot be given away or taken away, like the right to not be a slave (9th and 14th Amendments) and the right to a great many, many things you can only dream of.

There is also a “right to rebel” in this Declaration. People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people.

(Oops, there it is). 

And so my friend, the protestations we see being carried out by the young and diverse generation is rewriting the Constitution for us – right before our disbelieving eyes. These young combatants are not contesting just the white face, but the power structure behind that face. And they will keep the pressure on until they can realize “systemic change,” only this time the City of Great Again, unlike John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress’s Celestial City, will not be an allegory.

Dr. English Bradshaw taught political science and African American studies and established the Ethnic Studies Program at the University of Hawaii, where he received his undergraduate degree in political science and master’s degree in American Studies. He taught African American studies at the Phillip Brooks House at Harvard University, where attended Harvard Graduate School of Education and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Bradshaw also taught political science and African American studies at Tuskegee University and received his doctorate at the University of Amsterdam.

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