The concept can be difficult to grasp, even with its current prominence in the national discourse.
“Systemic racism” likely generates one of two reactions — either a knowing nod of the head or a dismissive roll of the eyes. Neither reaction should be ignored; both warrant discussion. And as the issue bubbles beneath the surface of protests demanding racial justice and calls to rethink policing and questions about how we treat minorities in this country, it remains difficult to define.
And so we turn to Clark County Councilor John Blom. Now, Blom is not a sociologist, so far as we know; he’s a real estate agent and a public official who is seeking reelection. But during an interview last week with The Columbian’s Editorial Board, Blom and the other candidates were asked about systemic racism. And his response was particularly insightful.
“When you look at the impact of housing, and years and years of discriminatory lending, redlining, those are things that just because they are fixed now, it’s not about the actions of individual people today,” he said. “It’s about what are the repercussions of 20 years ago, 30 years ago? If you were a Black man, if you were a Hispanic man, a Hispanic family, wanting to buy a house and your agent at that time steered you into a particular neighborhood, that doesn’t end at that moment. That impacts where your kids go to school, the access to health care that you have.
“That is what systemic racism is. And if we can’t say, ‘Yes, it’s an issue and we need to deal with things that happened in the past because they create an injustice today,’ we’re never going to be able to take those actions needed to address the problems.”