Oops, Your Denial of Systemic Racism Sorta Proves Systemic Racism

Those who rationalize racial disparities often provide evidence for the very thing they deny

Tim Wise
4 min readSep 4, 2022


Image: ViDI Studio, Shutterstock, Standard license, purchased by author

Over the past thirty years, I’ve written hundreds of articles and more than a half-dozen heavily footnoted books documenting the reality of racism as an ongoing force in America.

In this, I am hardly alone.

Scholars and researchers have long demonstrated how racism operates, individually and systemically, impacting the opportunity structure and how persons of color — especially Black folks — are treated in schools, the workplace, housing, health care, and the justice system.

Yet, no matter how much evidence we present, some will not accept it.

More to the point, they will seek to rationalize whatever disparities they acknowledge.

They insist that when there are inequities of condition or representation between white people and Black people, it must be the result of some behavioral pathology on the part of Black folks rather than pathological unfairness meted out by whites.

For instance, if you ask most anyone on the right if they believe there is racism in policing, from arrest rates to rates of brutality or deadly violence against civilians, they will answer no.

They say that any disparate treatment we observe in policing is due to higher crime rates in the Black community.

Simply put, police know who is most likely to be engaged in criminal activity based on their personal experience and the data confirming it. So naturally, many argue, they will end up disproportionately enforcing the law against certain people and not others.

It’s an argument I’ve addressed in essay after essay after essay after essay after essay, with evidence to refute both the underlying premise of the position and its conclusions.

But the biggest problem with this particular deflection is that in offering it, those who find it so persuasive end up proving the very thing they seek to deny.

How’s that? Simple.



Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)

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