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How to understand the concept of systemic racism

How to understand the concept of systemic racism
A member of the Ku Klux Klan, left, struggles with a black man over an American flag during a White Lives Matter rally at Pearson Park in Anaheim in 2016. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I can sympathize with Jonah Goldberg’s column on the perceived double standard regarding racism in our society. Indeed, the common confusion over the concept of racism stems from its many forms.

As a university professor who has spent his career teaching about the emotionally-charged concepts of race and racism, I have observed that my students begin to grasp their complexity about mid-way through the term. Sociologists are most interested in the “institutionalized forms” of racism — which has to do with the people who historically, and currently, have the greatest power in shaping our economy and institutions.

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In blunt terms, white men at the top have historically required the direct and/or tacit support of working-class and low-income white men, doing so by conveying the idea that those in power will look after the interests of white men at the bottom — and there lies the deceit, as we see today with our current president.

Institutionalized racism endures by giving many working-class white men the notion of being “protected,” and to some degree entitled. It endures by getting all of us to focus on the tip of the iceberg, when what’s really important is the mass of ice beneath the surface.

Ricardo Stanton-Salazar, Valencia

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To the editor: Goldberg tries, but understates, the issue of today’s so-called “racism double standard” that pits left against right. Goldberg writes that the left can say what it wishes, but the right must constantly “check its privilege.”

What writers like Michael Dyson point out (“Tears We Cannot Stop”) is not that groups are making opposing claims about one or the other, and whatever these beliefs engender. It is a far deeper problem of white privilege and its overwhelming domination of the wealth and influence in the Western world, and its destruction of cultures, peoples, ways of life, their properties and their beliefs.

The obviousness of white privilege easily leads to mistaking those who are damaged by it as inferior and unworthy. Their anger is justified, and they are reacting to the social consequences. But the hatred is not based on racial prejudice. It is the dominance of white privilege.

Ralph Mitchell, Monterey Park

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To the editor: During my long Internal Revenue Service career, I served as an Equal Employment Opportunity program manager. About the only people who don't have some kind of protected status are young, white, straight, healthy American-born males. If those particular adjectives describe you and life is going badly, you might feel that everyone else is getting a square deal and you're the one who is being discriminated against. It would be wrong for me to stereotype who makes up the alt-right, but many of their adherents fall into that class or they are potential recruits.

Ron Garber, Duarte

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