Joe Rogan on Systemic Racism

Ben Shapiro says nothing can be done about historical injustice, but is that true?

David Pakman analyze Joe Rogan and Ben Shapiro discussing the meaning of systemic Racism.

What exactly is systemic racism? Ben Shapiro makes the point that there is no racism embedded in Americans laws, while Joe Rogan counters with the fact that slavery, segregation etc left a lasting imprint affecting African-Americams today.

I strongly advice you guys to look at this video as it gets to the heart of an issue I have written about at length here on medium in the past, such as whether African Americans have been given rich opportunities. My story about IQ, Race and Racism also discusses the issue of equal opportunity for African-Americans.

But let us tackle some of the points brought up that neither David Pakman, Ben Shapior or Joe Rogan addressed.

Are American Laws Racist?

Ben Shapiro’s argument, that institutions cannot be racist because there are no laws making them racist, may seem logical but upon closer inspection this argument makes absolutely no logical sense.

The law of the land and how it is practiced are two different things. For instance the Chinese constitution says:

Article 35 of the 1982 State Constitution proclaims that “citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration.”

Which almost reads like a joke to anybody with some knowledge about China, but if I was to use a Ben Shapiro type of argument, I would claim that China does in fact have freedom of speech, because the constitution says so. Likewise the Russian constitution says Russia is a democracy, but we all know Putin has different ideas.

What to make of this? A society functions according to the beliefs, conventions and traditions of people in power. If the people occupying important positions of society’s institutions are not democratic minded, then the country will not be democratic either regardless of what the constitution says.

Likewise when racism is prevalent among the people making up the institutions of a country, then those institutions will also be racist regardless of what the law actually says.

In fact after 1865 there was no laws in America which specifically discriminated against black people. Segregation laws did not state that black people should be treated worse, just that they should be separated from whites. In theory black schools and other facilities would be of equal quality to those of whites. This was about as true as China having press freedom today.

Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal studying American race relations from 1939 to 1945 and documenting these in his work An American Dilemma, goes into great detail explaining how African-Americans where always discriminated against at every level despite whatever the law said. He frequently feigned being a naive foreigner with no understanding of race relations in the US, getting white American police, judges, mayors and many other people of authority to spill their beans on all the tricks they had come up with to keep African-Americans down.

None of these authorities needed explicit laws with explicit racist writing. It was enough that all of them engaged in racist behavior in practice.

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Mob posing by the ruins of The Daily Record, an African American owned newspaper.

Read e.g. about the Wilmington insurrection of 1898. A white mob basically took power from black politicians by force. Was that legal? Of course not. But this is possible to do in a society where racists are in power everywhere.

One could argue this says nothing about the situation today. True, but it highlights how non-racist laws doesn’t not hinder racist institutions. That is a logical fallacy on Ben Shapiro’s part. And yes institutional racism is in fact provable as a thing even in today’s America.

Can Nothing Be Done About Historical Injustice?

Joe Rogan makes a compelling point about how we model our surroundings. The legacy of slavery, discrimination and racism has created bad neighborhoods for African-Americans. To my surprise, Ben Shapiro concedes on this point.

In fact he even agrees that if you father, grandfather and people in the neighborhood where all dead beats who went to prison, then you don’t have a lot of good role models to improve your behavior upon.

For the kids that grow up under these circumstances, Ben Shapiro however doesn’t see any other solution than personal agency. Which is basically the tired old conservative demand, that whatever shit you have experienced in your life, you got to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and make something out of yourself. Don’t expect any help from us.

It is almost a shocking display of ignorance that Ben Shapiro cannot think of any other solution, when he must have heard his political opponents offer countless alternatives:

  1. Move people to another zip code, associated with more success. This has proven strong effect. Economist Raj Chetty discuss this on Freakonomics Radio. Kids growing up in a better neighborhood will have much better success in life. A government voucher to move is one way of doing that.
  2. Raise minimum wage. A lot of the problems in bad neighborhoods comes from grinding poverty. If people made more money that would also reduce the poverty problems.
  3. More mixed housing. Don’t push all the poor people into one area.
  4. Free school choice. In America school quality follows the quality of the neighborhood because neighborhood property taxes fund the schools. Instead the city should fund all school equally and kids should be able to pick school. E.g. in Norway where I am from those most local to the school get priority, but kids outside that area can apply for remaining spots.
  5. Shorter prison sentences and rehabilitation focus. You cannot expect kids to turn out okay if their father is in prison and is a much worse person by the time he gets out. Prison sentences are so long that father often get no chance to participate in crucial years of child development.
  6. Replace means tested welfare programs with universal public goods such as free health care and higher education. Otherwise you easily trap people in poverty, because getting a job may mean a welfare benefit is removed.

The problem today is that the quality of schools in America’s poor neighborhoods is so bad, that they cannot in any way compensate for problems of the neighborhood. America has one of the highest functional illiteracy rates in the West.

It is also hard to see how a lot of this can change when being a school teacher has such low prestige in the US. You get low pay, and often don’t even have the right to unionize and demand better working conditions.

Under such circumstances you are not getting the most skilled students to join the teaching profession.

If you look at Finland e.g. which has one of the highest performing students in the world, the key difference there is that teachers have better pay relative to others in society, much higher prestige, rights and autonomy. Hence top performers become teachers in Finland.

In short there are plenty of things one can do to raise children up and change their fortuntune. But conservatives like Ben Shapiro doesn’t want to hear anything about that, because almost all of this involved government action, and in the American conservative mindset there is a religious dogma that says: Government is always the problem, and never the solution.

Written by

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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