For the radicals, racism is not about prejudice but about imaginary structures of domination, which are evidenced in any disparities in the status of blacks and whites, that appear to them to be detrimental to blacks. Just as Marxists are convinced that there is class “oppression” when everyone is not economically equal, so race radicals claim that racial oppression exists when any disparity appears between racial groups. As long, that is, as the disparity works against the “oppressed.” No one, for example, argues that the diminishing presence of whites in major athletics is the result of a racial conspiracy by blacks or that it requires a government remedy.
The racialist view of American social institutions propounded by hooks, Davis and other leftists has even been incorporated into a school of jurisprudence. Not since the segregationist era has the buttressing of a racialist philosophy been the work of American law schools. But now, at Harvard, Stanford and other founts of legal scholarship, “Critical Race Theorists” argue that blacks can do no wrong and whites can do no right. These law professors defend the importance of a “race conscious perspective,” elaborate the theory that only whites can be racist (because “only whites have power”) and even defend common criminals, if they are black, as rebels against an oppressive system.
The theme of institutional racism was also the text of Jesse Jackson’s semi-literate rant at the Million Man March: “We’ve come here today because there is a structural malfunction in America. It was structured in the Constitution and they referred to us as three-fifths of a human being, legally.* There’s a structural malfunction. That’s why there’s a crack in the Liberty Bell. There’s a structural malfunction; they ignored the Kerner Report. Now we have the burden of two Americas: one half slave and one half free.”
The utility of “structural” racism for demagogues like Jackson is that even while acknowledging that the vast majority of whites are no longer overtly racist, the concept makes all whites guilty nonetheless. No individual white has to be a racist in actual thought or deed to participate in the racist system or to reap its privileges. Since the system appears to benefit whites the most, only whites as a group can properly be called its beneficiaries, and therefore racist. By the same token, since the black “half” of the nation is “unfree,” its members can hardly be held accountable for themselves.
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