What is systemic racism and why have I been lumped into this category?
I have struggled with these new buzz words and the frequency with which I continually hear it used to describe a segment of Americans in today’s society. Evidently, this narrative applies to me since I happen to be Caucasian. Although I think it’s unfair to throw this portrayal around as if it has to be the main cause of countless problems in society today, I decided to find out exactly what it means and why I’m thrown into the category.
Always as a first step I go to Webster’s and see what another human has decided is the appropriate definition. Since systemic racism is not given in Webster’s on Google, I had to look at the words separately. Actually, I had to read what the NAACP quoted and various other organizations to know what they believed to be systemic racism. But what I uncovered dividing the words by definition follows:
Racism: “A belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” The two words underlined were emphasized in the definition, thus I decided to further my search.
Race: “Any one of the groups that humans are often divided based on physical traits regarded as common among people of shared ancestry.” Okay, so that is any race, agreed?
Determinant: “An element that identifies or determines the nature of something or that fixes or conditions an outcome.” Wouldn’t your question now be, what particular element is the determinant that fixes or conditions an outcome? Once again I researched what an element’s definition would yield and the one that seemed to be appropriate was, “One of the factors determining the outcome of a process.” Again, I bumped into the question, who determines the element and what might that element be that sets this whole matter into motion?
Then I went back to the dictionary to get systemic defined and one of the definitions that jumped off the page to me was this, “affecting the body generally” because most of the explanations have to do with the body. Hang in there with me, if you will.
This is probably where I might lose some of you, but it is a belief deep within my soul. The body needs to work together. Before I further explain those statements, I want to be very truthful. I was raised in the south and I’m proud of where I come from….my parents were hard working blue collar employees. We attended church every Sunday. Dad and mom helped run a bus ministry in order to bring children to church that otherwise would not be able to attend. As a result, their parents sometimes would begin attending. We were taught to love people. I was never sat down and told people of color were to be treated differently. There weren’t a lot of girls I that I grew up with who attained four year college degrees. In fact, it was a big deal when people my parent’s age had a high school diploma.
After working with an engineering firm for a few years following two years in a community college, I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in teaching. It took ten years, full time and part time with a husband and children to see that degree in my hands. I wasn’t given any monetary assistance. My husband and I bore the burden of paying for that degree and we have done the same with our two children. Our children were never asked “if” you go to college, we always used the word “when” you go to college. That desire came from within. I didn’t blame anyone for not helping with my education, I wanted it so badly I kept at it and paid for it monthly for years.
Yes, I know it’s been more difficult for those of color in this nation in times gone by, but now in this present age, there’s no reason why anyone can’t get an education. There are loans at low interest rates and why should anyone expect the government to pay for higher education? In today’s society there are countless people of color making millions of dollars due to being an actor/actress; politics; sports figures; on talk shows and news outlets. They are writers, teachers, lecturers and on we can go because they wanted to succeed and kept working towards that goal.
Schools are no longer segregated and the teachers who stand in front of the classroom are of various skin colors. I’m proud to be an American and to have the heritage I possess. It’s made me who I am today, a woman of integrity that loves my family, runs a ministry and loves the Lord Jesus.
One last point…let’s go back to the definition that systemic “affects the body”. This time I will explain its effect on the Body of Christ. Delving into scripture, my source for living, the Bible states:
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
New International Reader's Version
One Body but Many Parts
12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so, we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.
15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So, I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So, I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.
27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.
We are equally a part of the body of Christ. We can’t all be eyes, hands, or feet. We can’t all be seen, in fact, while of us will never speak in public it doesn’t mean we are not as important as those that do. A house divided against itself cannot stand. We need unity. We need to work together. We need to go forward and not continue to look over our shoulders at what should have been, could have been or might have been. We are America. It’s time we start praying for our Maker, the Creator God, to shed His Light, His Truth, and His Way on our journey of life.
Judith "Cookie" White is the founder of The Sounding Board Ministry. She is the author of two devotional books which are available on this site.