While there is no denying the historical realities of slavery and segregation, and while the present day problems facing black communities in our land are widely known, these things do not in themselves prove that there is systemic racial injustice in America today. Nevertheless, the antiracist movement now holds so much sway in our culture that any attempt to evaluate its claims opens one up to the accusation of being a racist.
“America is systemically racist.”
“The police are an instrument of state-sanctioned violence against black people.”
“Anti-black racism is the defining element in America’s DNA.”
Such sweeping allegations have been made again and again over the past few months. In considering them, it is important to remember that one of the things that the ninth commandment requires of us is an “unwillingness to admit of an evil report.” That is, if an accusation of wrongdoing is without reasonable grounds, it should not be given any credibility. We need to ask whether there is any warrant for saying that America’s political, economic, justice, and social systems are a mechanism to subjugate blacks and other minorities.
While there is no denying the historical realities of slavery and segregation, and while the present day problems facing black communities in our land are widely known, these things do not in themselves prove that there is systemic racial injustice in America today. Nevertheless, the antiracist movement now holds so much sway in our culture that any attempt to evaluate its claims opens one up to the accusation of being a racist. In other words, the assertion of systemic racism is assumed rather than substantiated. This should be a matter of significant concern for Christians given that there are senses in which this movement bears the marks of a false religion. It is extremely important for us to be discerning in our assessment of the contemporary racial justice movement and its claims.
The charge that America is endemically and systemically racist is not new. It is at the heart of a revisionist history that has been made popular in many classrooms over the past forty years through the use of Howard Zinn’s textbook A People’s History of the United States, a book that has been denounced by a bevy of respected historians. More recently, this argument has been put forth by the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” which has been described by one historian as “an audacious effort to ‘reframe’ all of American history as little more than the lengthened shadow of slavery… using a distorted and one-sided account of our history to intervene in our current political wars, in ways that can only broaden and deepen those conflicts, and turn them into far worse forms of warfare.” The title of the Project is derived from the fact that 1619 was the year that the first Africans were brought to the shores of America. This is being set forth as the real beginning of America, alleging that the oppression of blacks is the nation’s most defining trait.
The 1619 Project has been rebutted for its many inaccuracies by historians across the ideological spectrum. However, the Times’s cultural privilege and power has made the Project essentially immune to the criticisms leveled against it. Its lead essay originally stated that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” Persistent pushback against this assertion eventually led the Times to revise it, saying that this was only true of “some of the colonists.” While those two words make a world of difference, the Times maintains that the essential claim is still valid. Here is how one writer assesses this:
Since “some” could mean anything from 0.1% to 99.9%, the Times has retreated from a dubious but bold assertion to an unfalsifiable, meaningless one. “We stand behind the basic point,” the Times insisted, either dishonestly or ignorantly. Logically, the Times’s small verbal tweak masks a huge concession, one that shatters a central contention of the 1619 Project.
Racism has always existed in America, as it has in every nation that has ever existed. However, America was not founded on white supremacy but on the self-evident truth “that all men are created equal.” This was the view of Frederick Douglas, who
recognized that the U.S. was not a slaveholding republic, and the Constitution, rightly interpreted, is not a pro-slavery document… Not surprisingly, Douglas is virtually absent from the 1619 Project. To make its fatalistic point, the Times has to silence his voice. To recover Douglas’ voice, we must recognize that the Declaration put anti-slavery and anti-racism, not slavery and racism, into the republic’s DNA… The transcendent truth of human equality is what makes America, America.
We have not always lived up to this ideal, but we have gone to great lengths to redress racial injustices, including fighting a Civil War that resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 American soldiers and the assassination of perhaps our greatest president.
The pervasive influence of the 1619 Project can be seen in the media reaction to the Independence Day speech that President Trump delivered at Mount Rushmore in 2020. The President touched on typical Fourth of July themes, asserting that, “We believe in equal opportunity, equal justice, and equal treatment for citizens of every race, background, religion, and creed.” The President also called out those who are engaging in “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.” It is not surprising that the media largely denounced the speech as dark, divisive, and even fascist. After all, the media has presented the violent and destructive mayhem that erupted after the death of George Floyd in a positive light, typically through the use of the strange phrase, “mostly peaceful protests.” In fact, when one writer suggested that the disturbances should be called the “1619 Riots,” the lead author of the Project responded by tweeting, “It would be an honor. Thank you.”
The main contributor to the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, now describes it as a piece of journalism rather than a history. While this is no compliment to journalism, it at least seems to acknowledge that historical assertions that are not supported by what actually transpired in history cannot be described as history. In spite of the fallacious nature of the Project’s central claims, the Pulitzer Foundation has given it its cultural imprimatur by bestowing a Pulitzer Prize upon Hannah-Jones and by teaming up with the Times to create a curriculum that is already being used by numerous public schools. Think about that for a moment. American history is now being taught to many of our nation’s youth by journalists who work for a blatantly partisan newspaper. And this in spite of the fact that an excellent textbook has recently been published by a distinguished historian.
The entity that is playing the most prominent role in making the allegation that America is fraught with systemic racism is Black Lives Matter. The name itself is incendiary, implying “that there [is] a group of people in American society who [do] not believe in the right to life of a significant part of the population.” It is not uncommon for organizations to take this Orwellian approach to identifying themselves. For example, the name “Planned Parenthood” is innocuous in and of itself. After all, there is a significant amount of planning involved in the old-fashioned approach to parenthood (i.e. getting married). Yet the agenda of Planned Parenthood is utterly pernicious, denying the most vulnerable human beings the right to life. Or take the “Human Rights Campaign,” the largest LGBTQ activist group in America. The very name of the organization asserts that anyone who is not supportive of its agenda is against human rights. The same dynamic is in play with Black Lives Matter. If you are critical of it, then you don’t think black lives matter. Some people have learned this lesson the hard way.
What is Black Lives Matter really about? Here is a statement from its official website:
Black Lives Matter began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism. Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities. The impetus for that commitment was, and still is, the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state.
What evidence is cited to support this claim of rampant, deliberate, state-sanctioned violence against blacks in America? One of the incidents that was integral to Black Lives Matter’s formation was the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. However, as Christopher Caldwell points out,
The controversy [over Brown’s death] was, in hindsight, unwarranted. According to an investigation into Wilson’s conduct by the civil right’s division of the Obama administration’s Justice Department, the 289-pound Brown, high on THC and accompanied by his friend Dorian Johnson, had stolen several boxes of cigarillos from an Indian-owned variety store, manhandling the diminutive owner when he protested. The incident was captured on video. When Wilson, making his rounds in a squad car, encountered the pair a few moments later, Brown moved to the driver’s window, blocking Wilson’s exit, punched him in the face, reached into the car, and got a hand on Wilson’s gun. Wilson fired a shot into Brown’s hand. He pursued Brown when he ran and shot Brown only when Brown turned and charged him. The Justice Department’s novel-length report, full of lab work, cell phone records, and dozens of interviews, showed that there was no case for indicting Wilson for any kind of police misconduct… On detail after detail, in multiple interrogations, Wilson’s account matched that of the material evidence.
In spite of this, Brown’s death continues to be cited as evidence of the systematic oppression of blacks. Even in 2020, the national Black Lives Matter website contains this statement: “In 2014, Mike Brown was murdered by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.” That statement is a matter of injustice.
It is true that police officers sometimes abuse their power and sometimes make poor judgments. But there is nowhere in the world where this does not take place to one degree or another. Perhaps some aspects of policing in America should be subjected to assessment and possible reform. But that is not the charge that is being made by Black Lives Matter. Instead, Black Lives Matter is saying that police in America are, with the full support of the state, systematically targeting innocent people on the basis of their race. Such an accusation needs to be supported by actual data. But the available data clearly refutes this charge. As Heather Mac Donald explains, the disproportionate percentage of blacks shot by police is due to the fact that “street crime today is almost exclusively the province of ‘people of color.’ In New York City, for example, blacks and Hispanics committed 98 percent of all shootings in 2016; whites, who, at 34 percent of the population, are the city’s largest racial group, committed less than 2 percent of all shootings.” The problem is not that police are enforcing the law, but that so many black people are breaking the law and resisting the police when they get caught. Though this is the issue that needs to be reckoned with, the 1619 Project and Black Lives Matter have little if anything to say about it.
Even in the death of George Floyd, there was no immediate reason to assume that Derek Chauvin, the officer who has been charged with murdering Floyd, was motivated by racial hatred. Moreover, the release of the body cam footage of what took place in the minutes before Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck, paired with the information from the autopsy and the allowable police procedures for such situations, suggests a different narrative than the one that has gained almost universal acceptance. At this point, it is reasonable to suspect that Chauvin has been overcharged and will not be convicted. This is even more glaring with respect to the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, where Officer Garrett Rolfe was charged with murder in spite of the fact that Brooks got into a physical altercation with two officers, stole Rolfe’s taser, and fired it at him while fleeing. If Chauvin and Rolfe are not convicted, as seems likely, it will almost certainly lead to further rioting. These tragic incidents serve as reminders of the importance of due process and the danger of rushing to judgment. This is all the more important in the midst of a political, cultural, and media climate where such incidents are immediately framed as examples of racial injustice, while details that present a different picture of the incidents are either suppressed or disregarded.
Beyond policing, what about the other charges of white injustice towards blacks in present day America? What about the recent claim by basketball star LeBron James that blacks are literally being hunted every day by whites? While there certainly are instances when blacks are victimized by whites, the data does not lend any credibility to the assertion that there is an epidemic of white violence against blacks. In fact, the statistics show that the problem runs in the other direction. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that in 2018 there were nearly ten times as many instances of black on white violence than white on black violence, even though whites outnumber blacks five to one in the overall population. Why are we not hearing about an epidemic of black violence against whites? Why is every instance of white violence against blacks cited as evidence of systemic racism when there are far more instances of black violence against whites that are largely ignored by the media?
There are some things that could be cited as proof of systemic racism against blacks in America, but for the most part the only people calling attention to these things are Christians and political conservatives. The most egregious example is the targeting of black communities by the abortion industry. While Black Lives Matter and its allies do not seem to think that unborn black lives matter, we can be thankful that Kanye West continues to leverage his celebrity status to call attention to this societal evil. Another indicator of systemic racism is the attacks that are being made on charter schools in spite of the fact that such schools have been so successful in improving educational opportunities for minorities in inner city neighborhoods. Another is the paternalism that contends that blacks should be held to a lower standard when it comes to matters of justice, education, or work ethic.
As the racial grievance movement has gained traction in recent years, we have seen the emergence of a cottage industry of books that denounce America and most of its citizenry as deplorable racists. One reviewer says that such books teach their readers “how to be racist in a whole new way.” This is not an overstatement. Racism is a matter of showing partiality against people on the basis of their race. Yet one of antiracism’s key proponents contends for the implementation of laws and policies that show partiality against whites, saying,
Racial discrimination is not inherently racist… The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist… The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination.
The assumption in the above quote is that the existence of disparities between whites and blacks stands as proof of systemic injustice. But this is simply begging the question. There are a wide array of factors that contribute to economic and social disparities. Numerous studies indicate that the disparities experienced by blacks today can be traced in large part to the vast expansion of the welfare state in the 1960s, the breakdown of the black family, and a persisting sense of victimhood and outrage in black communities.
The tragic irony is that the cultural heritage that is being condemned as inherently oppressive towards blacks is a booster of ideals that significantly increase one’s chances of attaining a measure of happiness and success in life. In the words of Amy Wax and Larry Alexander,
That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.
There is a great deal of implicit discrimination in the above quote. Having children in wedlock is deemed better than having them out of wedlock. Being hardworking is deemed better than being lazy and having an attitude of entitlement. Being kind, polite, and respectful is deemed better than being a jerk. This kind of discrimination has nothing to do with race. It is simply a matter of weighing empirical facts and determining what is best.
We all exercise empirical discrimination in a variety of ways. Yet these are the sorts of things that are cited by the racial justice movement to support their charge of systemic racism. This is inconsistent. As Thomas Sowell explains,
People who would never walk through a particular neighborhood at night, or perhaps not even in broad daylight, may nevertheless be indignant at banks that engage in “redlining” — that is, putting a whole neighborhood off-limits as a place to invest their depositors’ money. The observers’ own “redlining” in their own choices of where to walk may never be seen by them as a different example of the same principle.
To say that there is systemic racism in America today is to say that there are laws and practices that show partiality against black people on the basis of their race. In reality, blacks are the beneficiaries of a wide array of racial preferences in our society.
In light of this, it seems that the only thing that is accomplished by the allegation of present day systemic racism is the perpetuation of attitudes of resentment and entitlement that forestall efforts of self-help and cultural renewal in black communities. In other words, confronting America for its alleged systemic racism is not a solution to the problem but is instead a key source of the problem. How else can we explain the fact that the family and community dysfunctions that are experienced by many blacks today were not significant problems in earlier eras, even though blacks in those earlier times were subjected to much more severe forms of racial prejudice and discrimination? As one writer points out,
Indeed much of the strongest progress among African-Americans took place in the 1950s and 1960s, when discrimination was far more rampant but black business communities, families, and church institutions were not just intact but cohesive and strong. The Blacks who built successful businesses in the first half of the last century, notes historian John Sibley Butler, nurtured a culture of “self-help”—in part due to their exclusion from mainstream business—that brought economic rewards, helping build powerful religious and educational institutions critical to the nascent Civil Rights Movement.
The discrimination that blacks experienced prior to and during the Civil Rights era was real. However, the various entitlement programs and policies that emerged in the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights Act have done more harm than good. Why would we want to call for further entitlement programs when this is the very thing that has brought our nation to its current state of civil unrest? Consider these excerpts from Christopher Caldwell’s recent study of the cultural repercussions of the Civil Rights Act:
The changes of the 1960s, with civil rights at their core, were not just a major new element in the Constitution. They were a rival constitution, with which the original one was frequently incompatible — and the incompatibility would worsen as the civil rights regime was built out. Much of what we have called “polarization” or “incivility” in recent years is something more grave — it is the disagreement over which of the two constitutions shall prevail: the de jure constitution of 1788, with all the traditional forms of jurisprudential legitimacy and centuries of American culture behind it; or the de facto constitution of 1964, which lacks this traditional kind of legitimacy but commands the near-unanimous endorsement of judicial elites and civic educators and the passionate allegiance of those who received it as liberation… Where a shared heritage is absent or unrecognized, as it is in the contemporary United States, all the eggs of national cohesion are placed in the basket of the constitution. Hence a paradox: With the dawn of the civil rights era, the U.S. Constitution — the very thing that made it possible for an ethnically varied nation to live together — came under stress… Starting with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, whites were “racialized” in a way they never fully understood. They were the people whom American politics was not about… In this sense the United States had re-created the problem that it had passed the Civil Rights Act to resolve: It had two classes of citizens.
In sum, the current controversy over America boils down to whether we want to live in a nation that aspires to live up to the principle “that all men are created equal,” or a nation that operates on the assumption that some identity groups are “more equal” than others.
America is far from perfect. It never was and it never will be. In fact, to one degree or another, every geopolitical entity in this present evil age participates in the idolatrous world-system that the Bible refers to as Babylon. However, even when the Israelites were living in exile in literal Babylon, they were given this command: “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:7 ESV) The fact that the New Testament identifies Christians as sojourners and exiles means we are called to do the same thing. (see 1 Pet. 1:1, 17; 2:11) While we are bound to have some disagreements over how exactly to do this, one thing that we should be able to agree upon is that any movement that has a blatant disregard for facts, for the rule of law, for private property, and for public order is not seeking our nation’s welfare.
Andy Wilson is a Minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as the Pastor of Grace OPC in Laconia, New Hampshire.
 Westminster Larger Catechism, Q/A 144.
 Professor Glenn Loury makes this point in an open letter he wrote to his college: “I Must Object,” Glenn C. Loury, City Journal, Summer 2020 (online article), https://www.city-journal.org/brown-university-letter-racism-ftm.
 See “A Godless Great Awakening,” Joshua Mitchell, First Things, July 2, 2020 (online article), https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/07/a-godless-great-awakening; “These Aren’t Protests, They’re Religious Ceremonies,” James McElroy, The American Conservative, June 13, 2020 (online article), https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/these-arent-protests-theyre-religious-ceremonies/; “Atonement as Activism,” John McWhorter, The American Interest, May 24, 2018 (online article), https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/05/24/atonement-as-activism/.
 See “The Disgraceful Howard Zinn,” Michael Burlingame, Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2020, 52-53.
 “How the New York Times Is Distorting American History,” Wilfred M. McClay, Commentary Magazine, October, 2019 (online article), https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/wilfred-mcclay/how-the-new-york-times-is-distorting-american-history/. Note that McClay wrote those words well before the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots. Tragically, his prediction proved to be true.
 See “America Wasn’t Founded on White Supremacy,” Lucas Morel, The American Mind, October 17, 2019 (online article), https://americanmind.org/essays/america-wasnt-founded-on-white-supremacy/; “Leftists Attack The ‘1619 Project,’” Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, November 29, 2019 (online article), https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/attack-on-1619-project-socialists/.
 “New York Times Corrects the 1619 Project — but It’s Still a Giant Lie,” editorial, New York Post, March 14, 2020.
 “Cancel the New York Times,” Richard Samuelson, Claremont Review of Books, Summer 2020, 18.
 Samuelson, 20.
 “Remarks by President Trump at South Dakota’s 2020 Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration,” July 4, 2020, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-south-dakotas-2020-mount-rushmore-fireworks-celebration-keystone-south-dakota/.
 “Trump’s Mount Rushmore Speech Is the Closest He’s Come to Fascism,” Federico Finchelstein, Foreign Policy, July 8, 2020 (online article), https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/08/trumps-mount-rushmore-speech-fascist-politics-zeev-sternhell/.
 “Call Them the 1619 Riots,” Charles Kesler, New York Post, June 19, 2020.
 “Nikole Hannah-Jones Endorses Riots and Toppling Statues as a Product of the 1619 Project,” Allison Schuster, The Federalist, June 20, 2020 (online article), https://thefederalist.com/2020/06/20/nikole-hannah-jones-endorses-riots-and-toppling-statues-as-a-product-of-the-1619-project/.
 “1619 Project Founder Claims Her Project is Simply an ‘Origin Story,’ not History,” Becket Adams, Washington Examiner, July 28, 2020 (online article), https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/1619-project-founder-claims-her-project-is-simply-an-origin-story-not-history.
 On the Times’s extreme partisanship, see this open letter of resignation by one of the paper’s former editors: https://www.bariweiss.com/resignation-letter. On the related topic of cancel culture, see “Our Oppressive Moment,” John McWhorter, Quillette, July 29, 2020 (online article), https://quillette.com/2020/07/29/our-oppressive-moment/.
 Wilfred M. McClay, Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, (New York: Encounter, 2019). A teacher’s guide is also now available. For a review of McClay’s book, see “Who Tells Our Story,” Allen C. Guelzo, Claremont Review of Books, Summer 2019, https://claremontreviewofbooks.com/who-tells-our-story/.
 Christopher Caldwell, The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020), 265.
 “Board Approves Termination of Windsor Principal over BLM Comments,” July 28, 2020 (online article), https://www.wcax.com/2020/07/28/board-approves-termination-of-windsor-school-principal/.
 Caldwell, 262.
 See “Repudiate the Anti-Police Narrative,” Heather Mac Donald, City Journal, June 10, 2020 (online article), https://www.city-journal.org/repudiate-the-anti-police-narrative.
 Heather Mac Donald, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, (New York: St. Martin’s, 2018), 105.
 See “Black Americans Deserve Better Than BLM and 1619,” Corey Brooks, The American Conservative, August 17, 2020 (online article), https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/black-americans-deserve-better-than-blm-and-1619/.
 See “Why George Floyd Died,” Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, August 4, 2020 (online article), https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/why-george-floyd-died-bodycam/.
 “LeBron James on Ahmaud Arbery Shooting: ‘We’re Literally Hunted Everyday,’” Cindy Boren, Washington Post, May 7, 2020.
 See “Cannon Hinnant,” Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, August 11, 2020 (online article), https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/cannon-hinnant/.
 See “Inside California Democrats’ Hard Work To Deny the Poor, Middle Class, and Minorities an Education,” Christopher Bedford, The Federalist, August 12, 2020 (online article), https://thefederalist.com/2020/08/12/inside-california-democrats-hard-work-to-deny-the-poor-middle-class-and-minorities-an-education/.
 “White Paternalism Is Racism Too,” Hannah Sillars, The Federalist, June 3, 2020 (online article), https://thefederalist.com/2020/06/03/white-paternalism-is-racism-too/.
 Among the most notable are: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015); Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, (Boston: Beacon, 2018); Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, (New York: One World, 2019). For a critical assessment of this ideology, see “The Social Justice Endgame,” David Azerrad, Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2020, 10-15.
 “The Dehumanizing Condescension of White Fragility,” John McWhorter, The Atlantic, July 15, 2020 (online article), https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/dehumanizing-condescension-white-fragility/614146/.
 Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, (New York: One World, 2019), 19. For a critical review of Kendi’s influential book, see Coleman Hughes, “How to Be an Anti-Intellectual,” City Journal, October 27, 2019 (online article), https://www.city-journal.org/how-to-be-an-antiracist.
 See Thomas Sowell, Discrimination and Disparities, revised and enlarged ed., (New York: Basic Books, 2019).
 See John McWhorter, Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America, (New York: Penguin, 2007), 5-14, 63-72, 114-134.
 “Paying the Price for Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture,” Amy Wax and Larry Alexander, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 9, 2017.
 Sowell, 31.
 See Herbert Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925, (New York: Random House, 1976).
 “How Race Politics Burns Out,” Joel Kotkin, The American Mind, August 13, 2020 (online article), https://americanmind.org/essays/how-race-politics-burns-out/.
 In addition to Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement, the following article offers some helpful insights: “Only Five Black Lives Matter?,” Peter Jones, Truthxchange, July 14, 2020 (online article), https://truthxchange.com/2020/07/only-five-black-lives-matter/.
 Caldwell, 6, 17, 238.