The conflict over slavery was: is it right or wrong? The conflict over segregation was: is it right or wrong? However, the conflict over systemic racism isn’t: is it right or wrong?
The conflict is: does systemic racism exist or not?
That is a fundamentally different question. Americans are not divided over whether systemic racism is right or wrong. They are divided over whether systemic racism exists or not.
It’s crucial to understand that. Failure to understand that distinction is the basis for much of the careless and destructive reactions to George Floyd’s murder.
The concept of systemic racism today has become underlined by a form of cultural relativism, a concept defined by perceptions, not proof.
George Floyd’s murder is a horrific injustice. But it isn’t evidence for systemic racism. In fact, there isn’t any evidence for systemic racism today. Because systemic racism doesn’t exist—not anymore.
That doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist anymore. Of course, it does. I’ve been racist against other people. And other people have been racist against me. Just like every kind of sin, racism will never end—not until Jesus returns.
Nevertheless, the concept of systemic racism today has become underlined by a form of cultural relativism, a concept defined by perceptions, not proof.
For instance, this is the popular definition of systemic racism today:
“Systemic racism consists of organizational culture, policies, directives, practices or procedures that exclude, displace or marginalize some racialized groups or create unfair barriers for them to access valuable benefits and opportunities. This is often the result of institutional biases in organizational culture, policies, directives, practices, and procedures that may appear neutral but have the effect of privileging some groups and disadvantaging others” (emphasis added).
Therefore, under that vague and subjective reasoning, racial disparities—and especially, racial perceptions—are the basis for identifying systemic racism. That, however, presents several logical and theological problems.
Under that definition, black people—not God—are the authority on what constitutes racism or systemic racism. This is why Voddie Baucham defines social justice ideology or systemic racism theory as ethnic Gnosticism.
Systemic racism isn’t whatever I—as a black man—say it is. My perceptions are not proof. My experiences are not authoritative. I am not God.
We Christians shouldn’t abandon objective, biblical theology to embrace subjective, worldly philosophies. We need to remember what the Bible says about racism. We need to understand racism within its biblical category: partiality.
Therefore, if we’re going to accuse our governments of participating in systemic racism today, we should be able to list examples of systemic partiality against black people today. Otherwise, we’re guilty of dishonouring our governments and bearing false witness against them.
Social justice proponents are unable to list racist laws or policies to support their accusations, so they usually resort to perceptions and racial disparities as evidence for their accusations.
However, last year, I explained racial disparities between white people and black people are mostly a result of disparities concerning fatherlessness between white people and black people, not systemic racism. Nevertheless, Christians who embrace racial perceptions and racial disparities as evidence of systemic racism have set a destructive precedent for local churches.
It’s not accidental that evangelical social justice proponents are increasingly accusing local churches of complicity in systemic racism. By that standard for systemic racism, racial disparities and perceptions of racism by black Christians in local churches is evidence of systemic racism within local churches by white pastors and white church members.
Frankly, that standard for systemic racism is lazy and sinful reasoning. It lays the burden of proof on the accused, not the accuser. Systemic racism theory essentially demands groups to prove they’re not systemically racist—instead of demanding social justice proponents to prove the legitimacy of their accusations.
It’s shameful that so many otherwise reasonable people have accepted systemic racism fallacy as fact. How could a supposedly systemically racist nation like America elect a black person—twice—as its president? If America is systemically racist, wouldn’t that make Barack Obama complicit in racist oppression against black Americans? If racial disparities between white Americans and black Americans are a consequence of systemic racism against black people, how do we explain African immigrants to America experiencing similar socio-economic standings to white people?
And if systemic racism is real—if it isn’t merely a leftist political agenda—why are the only solutions to end racial disparities and supposed systemic racism socialistic?
Nevertheless, remember: there are fundamental differences between the questions over the conflicts of slavery, segregation, and systemic racism.
A person who believes systemic racism is right or good, isn’t the same as a person who isn’t convinced that systemic racism exists today. That should be obvious, right? But under the newer, sociological definition of systemic racism, it isn’t so obvious anymore.
Samuel SeySee More Essays
Samuel is a Ghanaian-Canadian currently residing in Brampton, Ontario, a great city just outside of Toronto. He blogs about Christ and culture, with articles featured on Challies.com, SovereignNations.com, StatementOnSocialJustice.com, Wretched.org, EzraInstutute.ca, BooksAtAGlance.com, Desiring God’s Nightly Brief, and more.