I absolutely understand white men, especially those over aged 40, who are resistant to the idea that America is systemically racist.
Before I lose too many of you, let’s start with what that means; systemic, or institutional racism, is a form of bias that is embedded in the laws and regulations of a society or an organization. It manifests as discrimination in areas such as criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, education, and political representation. In other words, the deck is stacked either in favor of one group of people or against another…or both simultaneously.
To suggest to white men that America is designed that way is, to some of them, an attack. They hear it as “you’ve had it easy,” even though that’s not what’s meant; rather the implication is not that white men have had it easy, just that they, as a group, haven’t had it as hard as any other group. Others hear less of an attack and more of an insult directed towards a country that they’ve had it pretty good in. Then there are those who think it’s just basic whining and others who simply can’t see something they’ve never had to experience. I don’t excuse their ignorance, but I understand it.
I’m not even going to bother to address patently racist white people who are simply hateful and ignorant and fall for the trap of buying into stereotypes that cast people of color as lazy, angry, and criminal and say idiotic things like “those people have just as much an opportunity in this country as I do.” ‘Merica! That’s beyond ignorant, repulsive and stupid and will get no oxygen from me.
You have to be more than intellectually dishonest to ignore the fact that the entire foundation of our country was designed and created by 40 white men. When you write the rules, you inherently, and sometimes intentionally, make sure that they favor you…it’s human nature.
I am a proud American who will argue that there is no greater nation on Earth and that the founders were some of the most brilliant and brave humans to walk this planet. I will also acknowledge that there’s a reason the preamble of the Constitution references the pursuit of a more perfect union; it’s because we are from perfect…and our history shows the litany of mistakes we’ve made, as does our present. The bottom line is this; it is simply impossible to ignore that America and all of our basic systems and institutions were mapped out by white men who claimed that all were created equal while owning slaves and granting women almost no rights of their own. C’mon man.
There is this paranoid strain of white people that somehow believe that acknowledging the truth weakens the nation and demeans things we’ve accomplished. A more despicable variant of this are those who feel their grip on power threatened, and believe me, that’s a very real thing…but again, I get it when it comes to white men.
What I don’t get is the demographic I have truly grown to loathe the last many years: white women who claim racism doesn’t exist nor is it engrained in our system…particularly white women over 40.
There has never been a better time to be a white woman in this country, and even today, it isn’t a level playing field. It’s closer than it’s ever been, but no honest woman can say that she hasn’t experienced some, if not a lot, of discrimination, harassment, or at the very least a need to prove herself in a way that a male colleague of hers hasn’t had to…but it’s nothing like it was as recently as 25 years ago. It is because of the women of Generation X and those before them that millennial and younger women have it better than boob-laden humans ever have in America.
So when a white woman over 40 stumbles anywhere near claiming there is no racism in present-day America or its’ institutions a very simple reality check should snap them into place as follows:
You’re a woman in 2022 and you are aware, through your own experiences, that sexism and discrimination still exist…and you can tell stories of being in your early 20’s a few decades ago and how much worse it was then. You know that as recently as the mid 1970’s women couldn’t get credit cards without a husband, had no legal recourse to fight back against sexual harassment, and could be fired from their job if they got pregnant. It wasn’t until 30 years ago that spousal rape was illegal in all 50 states, and sex discrimination was not outlawed in health insurance until 2010.
You live in a country that was designed by men who said from the jump you didn’t matter when it came to important decisions because women couldn’t vote until America had existed for 130 years. By definition, the nation was sexist at its’ inception, and to this day the scars are prevalent. But at least you were allowed to freely exist on some levels. It wasn’t great, but you weren’t literally enslaved.
If you have the ability to acknowledge the inequities bestowed upon women it is impossible to not realize and recognize how much greater those same hurdles are for people of color….like literally impossible! Black people were enslaved for 100 years after our founding and didn’t get the right to vote in America for another 45 years after women did…well, white women…and that right came exactly 100 years after the end of the Civil War that freed them as slaves. My marriage was illegal in this country only 54 years ago and was still technically illegal in states like Alabama until the year 2000…and you’re going to claim that racism is over? That there is no systemic bias within our system? Go to hell…seriously.
I get it…women have had it rough by the time they hit 40…most have had kids which has destroyed their soul, and plenty of them have had to deal with totally unhelpful husbands who sucked the life and fun out of them. All of that in addition to the baseline challenges that still come with being a woman in America; but you don’t make your life better by denying the reality of the challenges that others still face…challenges you know all too well.