Ronan Pandit | Tuesday 13 September 2016 | GMT 22:45 | email@example.com | @RonanPandit
When Tom Gurman published his article Pandit: Show Some Respect!, I must admit that I was surprised. I did not think that criticising Colin Kaepernick could result in such a passionate response. While reading his article, I was expecting him to reveal an undiscovered fact demonstrating that racism is still a fundamental issue in American life. However, my expectations soon plummeted; for when he did put forward statistics, I was greatly disappointed.
Despite my admiration for the passion with which Gurman writes, I found that there was a fundamental flaw in his argument: namely, that he is convinced that racial disparity equates to racism. To be clear: racial disparity does not equate to racism! This article will be a direct reply to Tom Gurman’s response to me, so I suggest that before reading this article, you read both my original article, and Gurman’s response.
Firstly, the fact that 40% of students expelled are African American is a particularly weak indication of racism. People are expelled for breaking rules that are held by individual schools, and unless you give me a reason to believe that black students are being asked to leave their schools for reasons other than the fact that they did something wrong, then I have no reason to believe that this is an issue of race.
With regard to the number of African Americans stopped by police in Chicago – black people may be a minority in the city, however, being stopped by police does not mean there is racism. Considering that African Americans commit over 50% of violent crime, including homicide and burglary, and taking into account the huge issue of gun violence in inner-city African American communities in Chicago, it is well within the right of the police to stop black people if they believe them to have committed a crime.
The disparity in sentencing (for a large part) of African Americans in trials compared to white Americans can be explained by the funding of public defence attorneys. This issue is similar in England and Wales with cuts to the Legal Aid Budget. Cuts in public defence offices means that lower quality attorneys are representing less wealthy citizens, which can result in worse sentencing for poorer defendants. Unfortunately, this disproportionately affects African Americans due to their median wage being lower than that of whites (the Sentencing Project presented statistics regarding this in 2013). Nevertheless, this is not an issue of race; rather it is an issue of class.
I have not denied that racism exists. Of course, there is racism. To think otherwise is an unfounded conclusion. But accentuating the extent to which racism actually occurs in America does nothing to improve race relations, does nothing to actually help poorer African American communities escape their situation, and ultimately does nothing to create a more cohesive country. To argue that racism is still a driving issue is not beneficial. When African American communities are told by Black Lives Matter, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that throughout their lives they will always be held back by some mystical figure of oppression, they have no incentive to actually make a change from themselves. Everyone has the opportunity to make something of themselves – even if they come from less fortunate backgrounds.
Furthermore, my race and nationality does not prevent me from having an objective point of view on the situation of African Americans in the US. Me being a “white Englishman” is not a reason to think that what I say is wrong. This is a cheap and weak shot, and I will not stand for such racist remarks. I may be a white male, but that does not prevent me from being a rational human being that has the ability to have opinions on certain issues. When he put forward such a ridiculous proposition, it immediately discredited the argument that he had so vehemently tried to convey. I am glad that Gurman thinks that I am not racist, but I am going to be clear that claiming that my race discredits what I say is undoubtedly a racist statement.
While I understand why Tom Gurman believes what he does, it is imperative that we look to actually explain why statistics are the case. It is wrong to simply say that because there is statistical and racial disparity, there must be racism (and even institutional racism). If there is racism, show me, and we can agree. If there is racism then I will stand with you to fight it. But do not conflate racial inequality with racism.
Simply stating that there is institutional racism does nothing to improve the situation. If we genuinely have a desire to defeat racism, then we must acknowledge it where it actually exists – not where we think it exists. Do not think that statistics in themselves prove racism exists, because racial disparity does not equate to racism!