Systems By Any Other Name; and, Lady Justice, meet Lady Liberty

I wanted to chant “Chapin, and Brearley, and Spence, Oh My!” this morning as I read of the endless pages of social media created by the elite black alumnae of these long-standing educational institutions. One student said, “‘The school likes to make them seem that they are once in a blue moon or isolated incidents, which they aren’t,’ she said. ‘This points to a culture.’”

There is no surprise here. This is what systemic racism means — permeating the system. The OED tells me that the roots of the word system mean, believe it or not, the universe. So, are we clear? Have we left anything out? When systemic is the adjective for anything, it means that whatever is permeating the system touches everything.

Why not elite, private, girls’ prep schools? It can’t be just police departments all over the country.

And it isn’t. This headline gave me pause: “‘Banking While Black’: How Cashing a Check Can Be a Minefield. Black customers risk being racially profiled on everyday visits to bank branches. Under federal laws, there is little recourse as long as the banks ultimately complete their transactions.” Seriously? “ The phenomenon has its own social media hashtag: #BankingWhileBlack.”

Again, no surprise. Bank of America, Wells Fargo — in multiple states, JPMorgan Chase. They all insist upon putting each of their employees through diversity training. And it’s not only banks. I have read of repeated egregious incidents in retail settings too, most especially Target.

Systemic racism. Throughout the whole system — because the very nature of a system is its connectedness. At the risk of stating the obvious, that’s what makes it a system.

Here’s a terrifying photo caption from this morning’s Times: “A dialysis specialist donned personal protective equipment before treating a patient with coronavirus in a Maryland hospital. Kidney function is one of several factors doctors evaluate differently according to race.” Kidney function risk, osteoporosis risk, obstetric risk are three of the nine areas cited in the study.

A new study reveals “Despite mounting evidence that race is not a reliable proxy for genetic difference, the belief that it is has become embedded, sometimes insidiously, within medical practice.”

So here is systemic racism in healthcare.

The thing that utterly stymies me is how anyone — anyone at all — could think that there are any systems at all that are exempt from systemic racism. Broadway is talking about it. Hollywood is talking about it. The worlds of dance, theatre, fine art, classical music, sculpture, poetry, fiction, museums, libraries are all talking about it.

We are all connected to one another. Of course, there’s systemic racism everywhere. How could there not be?

Admittedly, the racism inherent in our public discourse is by far the most blatant. Nicholas Kristof wrote this morning, “Race-baiting extremists have also tried to manipulate public fears. One Twitter account purportedly run by an antifa group, @Antifa_US, announced on May 31 that ‘tonight’s the night … we move into the residential areas … the white hoods … and we take what’s ours.’ But Twitter said that the account was actually run by white supremacists posing as antifa.”

There’s a plot twist. White supremacists posing as antifa. Uh, us v. them v. us, anyone? It makes my head spin.

Mr. Kristof continues, “These antifa panics are where racism and hysteria intersect, in a nation that has more guns than people. They arise when a lying president takes every opportunity not to heal our national divisions but to stoke them, when people live in a news ecosystem that provides no reality check but inflames prejudices and feeds fears.”

Black officers of the New York Police Department are in knots. Who can blame them? “‘I’m not blind to the issues, but I’m torn,’ Lieutenant Edwin Raymond said. ‘As I’m standing there with my riot helmet and being called a “coon,” people have no idea that I identify with them. I understand them. I’m here for them. I’ve been trying to be here as a change agent.’ Lieutenant Raymond, 34, is one of hundreds of black and Hispanic officers in New York City who have found themselves caught between competing loyalties.”

Competing loyalties. Of course. How could they feel differently?

Lieutenant Raymond was one of a number of officers who sued the NYPD because “the Police Department uses a racist and illegal quota system to target black and Hispanic people for arrests and summonses. Their careers were stalled, the officers claimed, because they objected to the quotas as unfair. Lieutenant Raymond said the emphasis on numerical targets has led to the overly aggressive policing of black and Hispanic neighborhoods, which in turn has led to more fatal encounters between residents of those areas and the police. ‘It just becomes an oppressive organization.’”

Recognizing from within that the organization is oppressive is a start for the NYPD and for all organizations, all systems, of every kind.

“In the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death on May 25, some black officers felt a duty to speak out. Two days later, Dmaine Freeland, a black detective in Brooklyn, put on his uniform, sat at his kitchen table, clasped his hands and recorded a video on his cellphone. The detective denounced the officer who had knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while three other officers watched. He called him an ‘enemy’ and asked ‘every good cop to speak up.’ Then he posted the two-minute video on Facebook. ‘I just spiritually felt the need to speak for good cops out there,’ Detective Freeland, 44, said in an interview, so ‘that we don’t get bunched in with the actions of one or four bad cops.’”

A protester who was attacked by police officers in Brooklyn asked plaintively, “Where are the good cops?”

Here. Here is where they are. And I’m willing to bet, if we look, there are more. A lot more.

“Sergeant Khadijah Faison, a black officer in Jamaica, Queens, took a public step of another kind: She knelt with protesters in a gesture of solidarity. Sergeant Faison had been working at a midday protest on May 31 near the 103rd Precinct station, where she is part of the community affairs unit. The demonstrators formed a circle and beckoned her and other officers to join them for prayer. She said she felt moved to do so.

“‘If you are asking to pray, you kneel. So I kneeled too,’ she said. ‘I think we were all looking for a sign.’ Two other officers also decided to kneel next to her, including her commanding officer, who is white.”

Prayer, beloved, is a good start in resolving systemic problems of all kinds. Prayer. Together. Amongst those who agree and those who disagree. It won’t be an answer for everyone, but for persons of faith, group prayer soothes, calms, quiets — and we need soothing, calming, and quieting.

The day after that prayer, “Chief Terence A. Monahan, the department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, also knelt with protesters in Manhattan, and other officers have followed suit.

Black and Hispanic officers said the show of support from white officers and commanders like Chief Monahan was one of the ways the current protests have been different from past demonstrations over police killings.”

Yes, Beloved, there is rage. There is grief. There is outrage. There is disbelief. There is horror. There is a whole lot wrong, yes. And, some right things are starting to happen. Perhaps not as sweeping or as quickly as most of us would like, but happening nonetheless.

“Officer Oriade Harbor, 38, a transgender black man assigned to Police Headquarters, said that even though he often speaks out against what he sees as social injustice, when he does police work he is still seen as ‘part of a system that is oppressive to black people.’ ‘People treat me different in uniform, because they only see the uniform,’ he said. He added, ‘At the end of the day I am a black person who dons a blue uniform. I am a trans male. I walk in all of these worlds.’

And there is the key to open the locked doors of systemic racism in all our institutions: walking in all of these worlds.

I am a queer white woman. I have experienced discrimination in various venues, sure, but never as a black woman, or a transwoman, or a black transwoman. Does that mean I cannot walk in their worlds?

To have their experiences? Of course I can’t. I am not those identities. But can I open my heart and hear their stories? Can I ask what has happened in their lives? Can I bear witness? Can I bring what is gentle and good and kind and wants the best for all of us to their experiences and be changed because of what they tell me? Of course I can. If I am willing.

It is that willingness to slow down, to bear witness, to listen, to hear, to heed, and to change that is missing at the highest levels of our government.

Consider these dreadful examples: “Officials in Tulsa, Okla., are warning that President Trump’s planned campaign rally on Saturday — his first in over three months — is likely to worsen an already troubling spike in coronavirus infections and could become a disastrous ‘super spreader.’ They are pleading with the Trump campaign to cancel the event, slated for a 20,000-person indoor arena — or at least move it outdoors.” The Trump campaign is refusing.

Thomas L. Friedman asks this morning: “Is Trump Trying to Spread Covid-19? Does he start each day wondering what expert advice to ignore next?”

“When the full record of the coronavirus in America is written, historians may argue that President Trump’s biggest mistake was not what he failed to do in early 2020, when the right strategy for combating the virus was widely debated, unproven and hard. No, they will point to what Trump failed to do in June 2020, when the right strategy was clear, proven and relatively easy.” But no. He never has and never will because optics, uh, trump everything.

“Mr. Trump is the ‘president of law and order,’ as he calls himself, except when it comes to himself or his friends. He has little patience for criticism of law enforcement, unless it is his. If the police shove a 75-year-old peaceful protester to the ground, cracking his head, it must be the protester’s fault. If the police prosecute one of his friends for tax fraud or perjury, it must be that the officers are corrupt.” The transparent double standard is glaring. He doesn’t give a damn because the man has never suffered a consequence in his life.

The Times speculated this morning that Mr. Trump no longer wants his job. Here’s a delightful and telling observation: “Trump wanted to be elected president. But the reality of being president was never discussed.” May we voters do the right thing in November.

Senator Tim Scott, the token black Republican in the Senate was quoted: “‘We can all sense the opportunity that is before us,’ he said on the Senate floor on Tuesday. ‘More than at any time I can remember, people of all ages and races are standing up together for the idea that Lady Justice must be blind.’”

I wish I agreed with Senator Scott, but I do not. I do not think that those at the highest levels of government sense any opportunity at all. I think they are terrified and threatened and, as a result, are terrorizing the populace. These real white [male] supremacists masquerading malevolently as our government, and with malice aforethought, run the United States of America.

But Mr. Friedman gives me a ray of hope. “You would think Trump had learned by now that Mother Nature is calling the shots and she asks only three questions about your personal or communal adaptation strategy toward her virus.

“First, are you humble — do you respect my virus? Because if you don’t, it will hurt you or someone you love. Second, is your response coordinated? Because Mother Nature has evolved her viruses over millenniums to find any crack in your personal or communal immune system. And third, is your strategy for maximizing lives and livelihoods based on chemistry, biology and physics and not politics, ideology and election dates? Because Mother Nature is only chemistry, biology and physics and responds to nothing else.”

Beloved, are you humble? Are you respectful? Are you willing to coordinate with others to respond to the systemic scourge that has poisoned our country for more than 400 years? Are you willing to maximize lives? To maximize livelihoods? For all?

I’m askin’ cause, you know, I think I know someone who is.

I’d like to introduce Lady Justice to my good friend Lady Liberty.

Symbol after symbol of the systemic racism woven through our country is under renovation. Statues in the South celebrating the Confederacy. Aunt Jemima. Uncle Ben. Even the chef on Cream of Wheat.

Mr. Abumrad said it all. “All I can say is that a bronzed bust of Dolly Parton is light years better than a bronzed bust of the first grand wizard of the KKK. The guy massacres 300 black soldiers at Fort Pillow in 1864, literally burns them alive, and then we put his murderous face in the state capital? Gimme Dolly.”

Me, too.

Dr. Susan Corso is a metaphysician and medical intuitive with a private counseling practice for more than 35 years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com

© Dr. Susan Corso 2020 All rights reserved.

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Susan Corso

Dr. Susan Corso a metaphysician with a private counseling practice for 40+ years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com