Roper: Activists can’t identify systemic problems in systemically racist system

By Rob Roper

The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee took up H.366, “An act relating to promoting economic opportunity for BIPOC-owned businesses.”

The bill is short; the meat of it reads: “The Department of Economic Development shall design and implement the Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color (BIPOC) Business Development Program, the purposes of which are: (1) to provide BIPOC-owned businesses with technical assistance, including financial literacy, digital literacy, and marketing; (2) to promote State and federal contract bid opportunities to BIPOC owned businesses; and (3) to provide training to business technical assistance providers to reduce bias in service delivery.

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

As testimony Wednesday was coming to a conclusion, Rep. Charlie Kimbell (D-Woodstock) thought he was throwing the witnesses a softball question but was also raising a critical question about many existing economic development programs designed to help all businesses regardless of the race of their owners. If we’re going to create and fund a new program, where and how are the current programs failing?

KIMBALL: “A lot of the description of the struggles of small businesses that have been described today are universal, across any business that is starting: trouble accessing services, not knowing what to do, not having the financial literacy. And, so, we try to address that with general programs. And what you were saying is that the system was not set up and is not designed to really cater to people of the BIPOC community. … Can you tell us how … the community was not well served? I ask that question knowing that you probably have a twenty minute speech on that. … I’m just trying to get some specifics on that.”

It turns out Mark Hughes, executive director of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, did not have a 20 minute speech, nor 20 seconds. He looked nonplussed and asked Kimball to restate the question. At first Kimball appeared to think Hughes was joking and laughed out loud before realizing the confusion was real.

KIMBALL: “Just thinking about what you were saying is that the system really wasn’t set up to be able to address the needs of the BIPOC business community. And I’m looking for specifics in which that has actually occurred, in trying to better understand that.

Hughes responded, “I don’t really have an answer for you now. You say specifics. Where I get thrown off on that question is when you say specifics.” He then recited some statistics and spouted some jargon before concluding, “But specifics I don’t have for you today.”

Kimball tried a different angle.

KIMBALL: “I think what you’re addressing is one of communication, making sure that these folks know that the programs are available. I’m trying to figure out if that’s the major issue or if it’s some kind of other nefarious program that’s going on.”

In other words, is the system itself actually racially biased, or are we just doing a poor job of making the BIPOC community aware that the system exists and how to access it? Again, Hughes couldn’t provide an answer, nor could any of the other witnesses in the meeting.

One would think that activists who are and have been for years dedicated to identifying and fixing systemic racism would be able to provide (A) at least one example of some mechanism within a system(s) that is racist and responsible for disparate outcomes, and (B) have some concrete suggestions for how to change the system(s) so that they will no longer be racist.

It’s telling that they can’t do this.

And herein lies the problem with the “systemic racism” argument, and why focusing on systemic racism won’t solve the problem of disparate outcomes between groups. The systems themselves are not racist, they are race neutral. They are not the problem. People who run or operate the systems may harbor racist tendencies, economic and cultural factors stemming from past policies may play a factor, all of which can have an impact, but the systems, the laws, the rules do not. Therefore, you can’t fix the problem — help people in historically marginalized communities to realizing their full potential — by changing the systems. It is other elements that that exist outside the systems that need to change. That’s harder work.

The systemic racism crowd is like the proverbial man looking for the glasses he dropped under the streetlamp because that’s where the light is, despite having dropped the glasses somewhere in the dark.

But, here’s what’s even worse: bills like H.366 that seek to recognize, organize, and treat people differently based on race are, in fact, systemically racist. They are designed to systematically treat people of different races differently under the law. The intention may be good, to make up for past injustices, but the implementation is poisonous. Just as systemically racist policies of the past, such as Jim Crow laws, created anger, increased prejudice, reinforced tribalist divisions, and produced bad overall outcomes for our society, so too will policies that are equally race-based, but only in the other direction.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Screen Capture
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15 thoughts on “Roper: Activists can’t identify systemic problems in systemically racist system

  1. I thought we already had a program in VT (and every state) to help people start businesses. The SBDC. I guess we need a parallel program for the BIPOC community. Isn’t that called segregation?

  2. Economist Thomas Sowell expressed the belief that the term “systemic racism” has “no meaning” and that it reminds him of Nazi Germany.

    “It really has no meaning that can be specified and tested in the way that one tests hypotheses,” he said, adding that the phrase’s currency is reminiscent of Nazi “propaganda tactics” and that people accept the lie after it’s “repeated long enough and loud enough.”

    “It does remind me of the propaganda tactics of Joseph Goebbels during the age of the Nazis,” Sowell, who is black, told Fox News host Mark Levin on his show, Life, Liberty and Levin, during a Sunday airing. “It’s one of many words that I don’t think even the people who use it have any clear idea what they’re saying. Their purpose served is to have other people cave in.”

    “They’re absolute hypocrites,” Levin said about today’s liberal Left. “They claim they want equality for all. They claim that there’ll be the withering away of the … police departments … and yet every time you look at a Marxist state, it is an authoritarian, top-down, centralized police state.”

  3. Very good point Rob. Yes, there absolutely is systemic racism in America, but it is not our current laws, thankfully. It is those who systematically have oppressed people for their own gain – power or money – and from the earliest days of our nation right up through our present day those are the type of people who have controlled the Democratic Party, the party that as I wrote in a column this summer has advocated for the following against people, primarily discriminating based on skin color:

    1) Human slavery
    2) Segregation
    3) Legalized abortion – starting with Margaret Sanger’s anti-black eugenics and today focused disproportionately on inner city Black neighborhoods
    4) Welfare that replaced dads with dependency on government (now at 75% fatherless homes among the Black population)
    5) Protecting the government-controlled education monopoly that has utterly failed Black children and trapped Black communities in a state of dependency on the never-delivered promises of duplicitous politicians
    6) Open support for mobs that have been destroying Black communities across our nation
    7) Pushing a defunding police effort that puts all police in a singular group and defining that entire group by the wrong actions of a few individual bad police

    These have all been systemic by the Democratic Party in America.

  4. It seems that this is a continuing theme. Laws/regulations are put forth intended to accomplish some “common good” and there is seldom an afterthought as to whether there was an impact. Could we ask that legislation have an expiration date? Legislators could then re-evaluate impact or see the law expires.

  5. There was an AP article that was picked up recently by the Sun Sentinel in south Florida titled “Fighting racism in Progressive Vermont”. It was full of misleading information from “studies” trying to prove their point.

  6. In large part Social Justice Theory is a ‘language game’. It sees language as a constructor of knowledge; language and knowledge make or create the individual and hence reality; those who control the ‘language discourse’ control the power. These are some of the underpinnings of SJT. It seeks power through the control of language and metanarratives, such as ‘systematic racism’.

    • So true, many, many people take things for face value. Most everyone only read headlines of news papers. Most will not watch a video more than 30 seconds. Most have been indoctrinated rather than….taught to see people’s true intent, heart, how to discern lies from truth..

      People can get away with murder in a scenario like this.

  7. I can….

    Hollywood, look at the stereo types! Incredibly racist and on every smart phone and tv!

    School System of epic proportions. The latest is people of color are deemed too stupid for math by claiming its white privilege! The on going oppression is stealing billions of dollars by fraud and incompetence within our school systems along with allowing massive violence, crime and drugs to take place in our SCHOOLS!!!!!!

    Then of course our welfare system that pays people money to litterally not get married! To break up a family, tearing apart the protection and financial stability that is offered by a two parent family, which by EVERy metric children prosper and flourish under.they creat horrendous crimes of splitting families from fathers,

    our court Systems! it should at least be equal in splitting, 50 % of men getting custody and 50% of women. If 50 % of women had to pay child support to men, we might be a bit more careful in our parenting choices.

    Yeah there is serious systemic racism? When are conservatives going to put an end to it? The NWO pimps thrive on it!

  8. The Socialists, like Hughes, expect to reify – or ‘to make real’ – Social Justice Theory into our culture and have it replace our Constitutional order. They want to institute Social Justice Theory as a ‘known-known’, meaning it’s a given that it is true and hence no dissent is tolerated.

    Hughes didn’t have answers because he expected everyone to understand this “Truth”. The progressive-Socialists like Hughes are building a meta-narrative of identity politics (race, sex, gender, etc.) to supplant our understanding of both the individual and our understanding of universal human rights… through the understanding of Natural Law. Individualism and universalism are the enemy of groupthink Identity Politics, particularly race-based politics.

    The end-game is the destruction of any understanding of a transcendent being, or God, making man (or some men) god-like to rule over all the earth. Hughes and his ilk expect everybody – at this point – to be on board. And they’re caught off-guard when reality conflicts with their expectations.

    Liberty rarely dies cleanly. Especially in the United States of America. God Bless the USA.

  9. A great question by Rep. Kimbell. A question that needed to be asked and a question that needs to be continually asked as the issue of systematic racism is examined in Vermont and beyond.

    On the other hand, Marc Hughes’ response of “not having an answer” is not surprising at all. If one has read the recent reports on Racial Equity that have been submitted to the Governor, The Legislature, and the House and Senate Committees on Government Operations that person could have predicted what Mr. Hughes had to say……..Which was not very much of a concrete natural to support the rhetoric that has driven the charges of systemic racism in Vermont.

    Since January 20, 2020 there have been three official reports on Racial Equity made to the Governor and the Legislature by the State’s Executive Director of Racial Equity and a special Vermont Racial Equity Task Force. The one thing that all three reports have in common is an absence of specifics in defining exactly what elements constitute systemic racism in Vermont.

    The reports make many unsubstantiated charges, describe how people feel, present inflammatory language, repeat national talking points on racial issues and provide speculation. The reports are light on citing specifics that support the often heard charges of systemic racism that are so easily tossed around, but not easily or maybe even impossible to document.

    Much more work needs to be done in Montpelier before the wholesale charges of systemic racism are accepted and acted upon in Vermont…….The presence of individual bias, which is present in all races, is not the same as systemic racism and should not be accepted as such without concrete proof of existence.

    Below are the reports on racial equity submitted to the Governor and Legislature …….You read them and decide if a case of systemic racism in Vermont has been made:

    https://racialequity.vermont.gov/sites/reap/files/doc_library/RETF%20Report%201%20FINAL.pdf

    https://racialequity.vermont.gov/sites/reap/files/doc_library/EDRE%20Report%20to%20GA%202020%20-%20REVISED_0.pdf

    https://racialequity.vermont.gov/sites/reap/files/doc_library/EDRE%20Report%20to%20GA%202020%20-%20REVISED_0.pdf

  10. I’ve lived in Vermont nearly my entire lifetime, and I’ve never seen racism until the recent infestation by BLM and ANTIFA. These vile leftists organizations have introduced and foment racial hatred into our previously peaceful state. Peaceful people are obliged to reject and expel these evil organizations.

    • And Mark Hughes is a fraud, he’s in it for the pay check. Look into his background. He is the racist. Let’s not forgot that racism isn’t restricted to the white Caucasians, they come in all colors.

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