Some people find it easy to agree that institutional racism still exists in American culture. Or that white privilege exists. Others, such as myself, say that it simply isn’t there.
Events such as the Civil Rights Movement, laws such as the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act, and legal cases such as Brown v. Board of Education were brought into existence to ensure equal treatment of all races within America. They have helped to end most forms of racial inequality and thus to end institutional racism.
However, many still contend that institutional racism, as well as white privilege, are real. To understand the subject better, it’s best to look at most arguments made about institutionalized racism and white privilege and dissect them.
Institutional Racism is “any system of inequality based on race.”
With so many laws in place to ensure that racial equality is practiced among all institutions in government, education, and business, we have to ask about the evidence regarding institutional racism.
When looking in the news, we can see events such as the George Zimmerman trial and can conclude that this would be a perfect example of institutional racism in government and public policy. It’s a clear example of white favoritism over the black minority. Many have asked, “What if Zimmerman was black and Martin white?” However, there are similar cases that answer this very question, such as the Roderick Scott case, involving a black man who shot and killed a white teenager and was found not guilty due to Stand Your Ground laws.
Continual inconsistencies such as this can be found, depending on where you look. Since the news media is not the most reliable source on giving proper instances of institutional racism, we can turn to the criminal-justice system for a better insight, as many claim that it’s a perfect example. With all the data collected regarding race and crime in the US, it becomes clear that data and statistics on the matter often conflict. One study says race and crime tend to even out between all races, while others say that it doesn’t. It’s still up for debate on what exactly is true. Statistics showing instances of institutionalized racism in the criminal-justice system are also unreliable.
So where can we look to get a better understanding? We can certainly try and dive into literature surrounding the issues of institutional racism in the US.
When looking into many written works regarding the topic, most literature is also linked with examination of “white privilege.” White privilege refers to the myriad social advantages and benefits that come with being a member of the dominant race. In the book Privilege, Power, and Difference (rated 4 stars on Amazon), we find that the author, Allan G. Johnson, (Ph.d. in sociology) “links theory with engaging examples in ways that enable readers to see the underlying nature and consequences of privilege and their connection to it.”
This means that it links theory with people’s personal experiences and what they have seen as institutional racism and how people with “privilege” can identify with them. My first problem lies here. One has to remember that a personal experience is seen as a subjective observation—one that is not concrete and is thus subject to bias. An objective observation would be something that can be observed independently of personal bias. However, suggesting that their personal experiences are invalid due to no concrete evidence and possible bias is to marginalize their personal experience and deem it unimportant. Fair enough, but what kind of scientific theory would rely on subjective observation rather than objective observation?
That would be critical race theory. Also known as CRT, critical race theory is described as:
an academic discipline focused upon the application of race, law, and power.
Key elements of CRT include, but are not limited to: the critique of liberalism, revisionist interpretations of American civil-rights law and progress, essentialism philosophy, white privilege, appeal to emotion, and “naming one’s own reality” or “counter-storytelling.”
From a rational standpoint, CRT seems to utilize logical fallacies and aggressive tactics to argue issues of race.
Camara Phyllis Jones defines institutionalized racism as “the structures, policies, practices, and norms resulting in differential access to the goods, services, and opportunities of society by race….It is structural, having been absorbed into our institutions of custom, practice and law, so there need not be an identifiable offender.”
I felt the need to highlight the last part of that sentence. This is basically saying that institutionalized racism is so real, we don’t need evidence to point it out. Not only does CRT admit to using appeal to emotion and “naming one’s own reality,” but, it also utilizes what is known as the “bandwagon fallacy“—appealing to popularity or the fact that because many people believe or do something, it must be true. It’s the same as arguing, “If Bigfoot isn’t real, how come so many people have seen Bigfoot?”
So where does this use of logical fallacies stem from? If you’re getting confused, let me clarify. Modern racial politics engages discourse on the topic of institutionalized racism and white privilege, in which most examples in contemporary America are mostly proven by critical race theory, which itself utilizes logical fallacies and aggressive discourse tactics which originally stem from critical theory.
What is critical theory? Well, there are two definitions. You have the literary and the philosophical. Literary critical theory focuses on knowledge via interpretation to understand the meaning of human texts and symbolic expressions. The philosophical is defined as a social theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole. But why would it aim to challenge and change society as a whole? If you read the link, you’d see that the beginning of the second paragraph states:
In philosophy, the term critical theory describes the Frankfurt School, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s.
Critical theory, it shows, is a school of thought that was developed with a political ideology and possible social agenda in mind. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. People have their issues with different political ideologies all the time. We’ve all seen how rabid Republicans and Democrats can get during debates. So critical theory is used in discourse to bring about social change.
But what exactly are the methods used by critical theory in order to come to conclusions for change? As shown in the Qualitative Research Guideline Project, the methodology is focused on getting people to discuss and reflect on personal experiences, and the researcher provides a discourse for change. In short: using subjective observation to cause real social change. Not objective observation, but subjective—an observation we already know to be biased and thus not entirely reliable.
Using something that might not be real to change something that is real. That almost seems like circular logic. Why would it use logical fallacies to incite debate? My opinion is because the core of critical theory is reliant on a logical fallacy itself.
So what does this say about critical theory, Institutionalized Racism, and White Privilege?
To me, is says that the notion of modern institutionalized racism and white privilege can only be conceived and understood as narrative reality if one allows themselves to stop using logical reasoning and start jumping though illogical hoops with the triad of fallacies presented by critical theory and CRT.
It also shows that critical theory isn’t a theory. It’s a psychological tactic composed of handpicked logical fallacies with the purpose of destroying the very idea of opposition toward critical theorists from the mind of the critical theorists’ target population. It also aims to degrade the social cohesion of the target population by convincing them that their social cohesion, indeed their very society, doesn’t exist and therefore shouldn’t exist. At the same time, it claims that social cohesion of the target population has created a social constraint toward the target’s minority population that cannot be found to exist outside of one’s own perception.
When I reflect on the fact that most people who implore me to believe that modern institutional racism and white privilege exist, it’s imperative to remember that they utilize these same flawed psychological tactics. As someone who is very outspoken about modern racial politics, I usually have a conversation that goes like this:
PoC: You have offended me by being racist (appeal to emotion) as you have not recognized your white privilege (subjective observation).
Dave: You’re making a subjective observation regarding my “privilege” and are using the appeal to emotion by claiming that I need to think about your feelings.
PoC: You are incapable of understanding because you are not thinking about my feelings (shame on you for not using the appeal to emotion) and are being biased in regard to your white privilege (shame on your for not using subjective observation).
So many of these arguments consist of two or more logical fallacies being used against me. I point out the logical fallacies, then my opinion is marginalized, because as they claim, I’m not using these same logical fallacies to agree with them. Can you understand why these conversations frustrate me?