Everything you wanted to know about “systemic racism” but were afraid to ask.

Ulysses Alvarez Laviada
9 min readJun 9, 2020


What exactly is systemic racism for those who, believing in its existence, still fear to be transparent enough to reveal what really exists behind such terminology?

What is called “systemic racism” is the racial and ethnic prejudices that we all have unconsciously; both white for black and black for white; the Jew for the Arab and the Arab for the Jew; the European for the American and the American for the European; the European for Asian and Asian for European. However, all of these racial and ethnic prejudices have manifestef with greater length in the United States toward Afro-Americans, and the reason is clear: On America, the race that has suffered the most from the aftermath of slavery is the Afro-American.

Therefore, the collective memory and the collective unconscious (if something like that exists) of the Afro-American seem, under the eyes of “systemic racism” advocates, to be more damaged by the trauma of slavery and Jim Crow Laws right up to the present days, when compared to any other race in the United States.

This brings us to the second aspect of the so-called “systemic racism”; its institutionalization. Institutionalizing a public service is making it an official part of the legal regulations that make it function in society. However, let’s make something very clear. One thing is the-letter-of-the-law and another thing is the-spirit-of-the-law. If, for example, the law became hypocritical because individuals who follow it to the letter do not actually follow it in spirit, this should in no way lead us to think that because the law is not followed in-spirit such an institution does not actually abide by the-letter-of-the-law. This is precisely the center of the confusion that the advocates of “systemic racism” created by directly identifying the-letter-of-the-law with the-spirit-of-the-law.

But before continuing let us make something clear. The essential problem here is that no society can solve from a legislative point of view anything that concerns the unconscious. Here what the term “racism” refers to in the phrase “systemic racism” is to the unconscious. Once the unconscious becomes “systemic” we are all prompted to be criminal without realizing it. All that remains to be solved is knowing who is most affected by the criminal actions we are not aware of committing.

The conclusion Black Lives Matter comes to is that Afro-Americans are the most affected by the unaware racist behavior white people have. There is an old saying that states: “ignorantia juris non excusat” or ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Now, can you imagine the same rule applied to racism? It would go something like this: “Ignorance of racism is not an excuse.”

However, when speaking of the law, one speaks of something formalized on paper and clearly defined by the judicial system. Yet, when talking about racism most of the time, it does not mean violating a law or committing a crime, but fundamentally being prejudiced about Afro-Americans without consciously supporting racism. Here, however, the conclusion by those of us fighting racism should be that having racist biases when those biases are unconscious should not necessarily imply that you are a racist. It is easy to see how racism becomes “systemic” with this simple operation of making unconscious racist prejudices the axis of racism.

Thus the word “racist” is more loaded with criminal connotation if we compare it, for example, with the word narcissistic. In this sense, nobody talks about “systemic narcissism” although the term could very well compete with what is called “systemic racism”. The difference, however, is clear. Narcissism is not seen as criminal whereas today virtually every act of racial prejudice, whether conscious or not, is perceived by the ultra anti-racists as criminal or at least is thought that way or taken as something that should become criminal.

Take the word homicide for instance. Homicide is any act of killing a person. However, even though all homicide may be either justifiable or excusable or criminal, each form of homicide is punishable by law according to the specificities of the laws in each country.

Justifiable homicide is when someone kills someone but the existing conditions have made that act a legal act, for example when it is for self-defense. Excusable homicide is when one not only has not intended to kill another person but under the conditions in which it happened, there were no other options. Criminal homicide is the act of killing that is carried out with the clear intention of killing.

Let us now replace the word homicide with racism and imagine that racism was punishable as a homicide. We would have to assume that there is racism that is or justifiable, or excusable or criminal and each form of racism would be equally penalized. Justifiable racism would be what African Americans can exercise over white Americans by seeking retribution for whites having enslaved Africans. Excusable racism would be caused by whites having unconscious racial prejudice against African-Americans. Criminal racism would be the rejection and conscious discrimination of African-Americans by white Americans.

The parallel that I have drawn between homicide and racism is really absurd, but I don’t think there is any clearer way to illustrate the absurdities of the demands of many Black Lives Matter supporters, academics and think-tanks who strongly endorse the ideas of “systemic racism.” What is actually systemic in the minds of those who support “systemic racism” is not racism itself but the belief in its criminality via unconscious racist prejudices. Thus they feel the moral and political obligation to legislatively demand the submission of white citizens to new laws that are directed to sanctioning unconscious racist prejudices in white Americans.

If I were to live in Japan or an indigenous tribe or anywhere where my ethnicity was not common or in the minority, I could be directly or indirectly discriminated against because of unconscious prejudices. Now if the legal and institutional system of each of those places followed the-letter-of-the-law that prohibits racial discrimination but did not necessarily follow the-spirit-of-the-law regarding racism, this does not mean in any way that the system of those societies is unfair or is affected by “systemic racism”.

Something is systemic not only because it is ubiquitous but because such omnipresence has direct and active agents who implement it and ensure that it happens. Racism can only be racism if those who discriminate do it with a clear intention to discriminate. It is ineffective and contradictory to consider racism to have racial prejudices without having the direct intention of discriminating. If white Americans could consider themselves privileged relative to Afro-Americans by the mere fact that the American population had only 12% Afro-Americans, the same could be said of an Afro-Americans living in Japan or a Japanese living in Norway, but this type of unconscious discrimination cannot be called racism.

However, if white Americans could be considered privileged relative to Afro-Americans just because of both being aware of Afro-Americans’ past of slavery, this would rather be a subjective systemic perspective that would imply that Afro-Americans were condemned to feel inferior because of the awareness of being slaves in the past. Either variant, minority population or a past of slavery clearly shows that it cannot be an indicator of racism even if there is racial prejudice simply because racism must have the intention to discriminate. The other aspect of the so-called systemic racism is the insistence on the part of its defenders that the history of the fight against racism shows more regression than progression in a historical sense.

Thus, the fight against racism is not seen as a process of significant gradual increase in racial equality, but rather as a process of insignificant gradual increase in racial equality. Here “insignificant” points to wanting to talk more about a new form of racism than about the old one. This new form of racism, however, ends up again and again being reduced, though not exclusively, to unconscious racial prejudice and expressed as if past achievements were taken for granted and no longer count due to the current marginalized and segregated state of many Afro-Americans communities. No data, however, shows that Afro-Americans, after the achievements of Civil Rights Movements and the end of Jim Crow laws, were segregated in Afro-American communities by force or by constitutional or regional limitations.

Black Lives Matter makes of the history of the fight for racial equality a history of not many achievements and a history in which any achievement has carried the weight of resistance. This resistance has been for them of such considerable magnitude that racial equality would always remain as a mere facade. Here we return again to the conflicts between the-letter-of-the-law and the-spirit-of-the-law.

If we read the article by Geandy Pavón, Alfredo Triff, my answer.

Pavón tells us:

“Blacks went from slavery to eighth citizenship status.”

It is not difficult to deduce that any step of progress towards racial equality can always be looked at either with a cynical pessimistic eye or with a cynical optimistic eye. And so Pavón insists in a cynical manner:

“The transition from the inhumanity inherent in slavery, to the barbarism of a democracy that does not guarantee the life of its citizens of color, is always an improvement.”

This is undoubtedly nothing more than optimistic cynicism. I would even say that it is an ontology and a topology of how to narrate a story that only contains from its beginnings to the present racial discrimination in different degrees. Like someone who would say that water is still liquid even when it turns into ice.

It is precisely this type of ontological cynical optimism-pessimism that I find in Geandy Pavón’s article, which is written primarily to demonstrate that “racism is a structural part of America”.

Pavón tells us:

“I wonder: How can you aspire to live if the police do not stop massacring this population? How can you aspire to freedom if Afro-Americans are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than whites? How can you aspire to happiness if the houses where they live, the neighborhoods, the schools, are usually the worst in the city? ”

Pavón still had to prove that, in fact, the data he offers is predominantly associated with racial factors. The history of social mobility in the United States is a complex one and the natural segregation of blacks and whites took place at the initiative of both whites and blacks. The link that follows addresses this particular topic.

On the other hand, if one were to apply Pavón’s logic to the rest of the world, reducing social conflicts predominantly to racial conflicts, one can quickly realize that there are sharper than racial disparities like that of classes and social groups disparities, making negligible to take as the center of inequality the color of the skin.

In other paragraphs Pavón attempts not only to demonstrate the existence of “systemic racism”, but even to denounce the “systemic police abuse” against blacks by the American police:

“The set of laws, designed exclusively for the police forces, are known as … The Blue Wall of Silence, and was established in the late 1960s as a reaction to the advance of civil rights activists. In other words, it was created to be able to exercise police abuse — specifically against black activists — with impunity, under the protection of the law. ”

Wikipedia, however, tells us in relation to the Blue Wall of Silence a different story:

“All of these are considered illegal offenses and are grounds for suspension or immediate dismissal. Federal laws strongly prohibit officer misconduct, including officers who follow the code by ‘testilying’ or failing to report any officer who is participating in corruption.”

What exactly is going on here? Why do we have this contradictory information between what Pavón tells us and what Wikipedia tells us? We are in the presence of the same trick done with the concept of “systemic racism”, but this time it is done with the concept of “systemic police abuse.”

What is considered the Blue Wall of Silence is nothing legally permissible but rather an informal rule among police officers. The systemic here once again is what circulates through the collective unconscious of the police. In the following link, you can find a specific treatment for the George Floyd case.



Ulysses Alvarez Laviada

Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights. Friedrich Hegel.