“BIRTH DEFECT OF A NATION: Our Legacy of Systemic Racism”
Columbia Basin Badger Club virtual event.
With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, our country had its first African-American president. For some, this historic milestone was a clear sign that the dreams of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s had been realized – we had finally entered a post-racial era without divisive issues based on skin color. How could a country that elected a black man as president really be racist? The reality of the years that followed made it clear that although great progress had been made, race was still a central defining conflict within our nation.
Almost daily, we see news headlines driven by these lingering racial tensions. The police killings of unarmed black men and the protests that erupted in response. The local school board is fighting for the teaching of critical race theory. Supreme Court Reviews of Affirmative Action Policies in College Admissions.
At the heart of these issues is the concept of systemic racism, a form of racism woven into the fabric of customs, laws and regulations that make up our society and institutions. In practice, it systematically gives advantage to one social or ethnic group at the expense of another. Systemic racism has a long and complex history in our country, affecting a number of areas including criminal justice, health care, housing, wealth, education and the media.
Whether we are aware of it or not, systemic racism can have a personal impact on our family relationships, at the water cooler at work and in the community, which can lead to real social and institutional dysfunctions. The negative real-world outcomes of this type of discrimination can hurt individuals, especially minorities in our community, in many ways. And since we are all connected in some way – socially, economically or politically, what affects one group affects us all. Ultimately, how we collectively deal with systemic racism will have serious consequences for the future of our common republic.
On March 17, the Columbia Basin Badger Club will present a forum on this important topic, featuring award-winning author Dr. Thomas J. Sugrue. He received his BA in History from Columbia University, a BA in British History from King’s College Cambridge and a Ph.D. in history at Harvard University. Dr. Sugrue is currently a professor at New York University, specializing in 20th century American politics, urban history, civil rights and race. He is a recognized authority on the effects of systemic racism in America.