|Keanu Reeves, star of The Matrix, is Canadian. Coincidence, or ...?|
Jeff McLaren, a local councilor, writes a guest column in the Kingston Whig-Standard warning of Canada’s “systemic racism.” It seems to me a model of the type. Everyone now is writing columns condemning “systemic racism.”
McLaren begins, “Systemic racism is like the matrix. It is all around us but most can’t see it.”
If we are speaking of a thing most people cannot see, we have reason to ponder whether, in fact, like leprechauns, unicorns, witchcraft, or Jews poisoning wells, it does not actually exist as a thing independent of a few people’s perceptions of it.
We who cannot see it need some evidence.
And evidence ought to be easy to find. For a thing to become “systemic,” assuming the absence of psychic powers, it must be communicated among the members of that system. We will see it in the laws and regulations that constitute that system. If there are no such written laws or regulations, asserting systemic racism requires positing a vast conspiracy. Such vast and longstanding conspiracies are, for a variety of reasons, inherently unlikely to exist. Especially conspiracies of which the actual members are unaware.
McLaren’s stated evidence is that “federal and provincial law and city bylaws … all were predominately written by white, rich, educated, Christian, men.” Surely this is true: Canada was formed by a variety of ethnic groups, but most of them had and have skin that was relatively pale. Had they intended to, they presumably could have created a system that favoured people who looked like themselves. We have seen it in other times and places: in the US South before about 1965, in South Africa, or in the Indian caste system.
But that they could have done so is not evidence that they did. For that, we still need to see actual laws or bylaws that discriminate against “non-whites.” McLaren offers no evidence of this.
Surely it is his duty to do so: not only to prove his allegation against Canada, but also to combat racism. Any such laws or bylaws are in violation of the Canadian constitution. It is the duty of all of us to bring them before the courts, and have them overturned.
Other than this, McLaren’s argument seems to be that we should not consider racism wrong: “One example of an unhelpful distortion of ourselves is the older starting point of calling out racism as a moral failing.” It is hard to read this as anything other than a defense of racism. Systemic racism, if it exists, cannot excuse us from our individual moral obligation to resist it. “Everybody else was doing it” is not a moral argument.