The System Is Broken: troubleshooting racism (BLM edition)


June 22, 2020 by hasheyehosh

Whenever I hear or see these words, “the system is broken” used to sum up what’s wrong with society today, especially with regard to racism, the computer technician in me immediately starts to think about the equivalence of a broken system in technology.

If a computer system were described as broken by its user, a couple of questions that would come to mind during the inevitable troubleshooting that follows include: yes, I hear you, but is it actually broken and if so, what exactly broke?

Along with that are questions such as:

1. What is the system supposed to look like when it’s working correctly?

2. What is the system doing incorrectly right now?

3. When did the system break?

4. What most recently changed within the system that’s significant and relevant enough to have possibly caused a system failure?

To return to the topic at hand, it seems like it would be a fair assessment of things to say that race relations in the UK and the USA along with much of Europe, Asia and pretty much the whole world, are not in what you would call a good place.

There seems to be a reckoning, as I wrote in my previous blog post On the issue of our time: coronavirus/covid-19, with the fact that things cannot go back to the way they were, whereby, if they did, only the majority of a particular section of the society with privilege get to benefit immensely but at the disadvantage and often exclusion of the minority groups.

It maybe that people want a hybrid of some of the parts of the system that might have worked for everyone in society if any, but with most of the input from new systems that truly accommodate and do not disadvantage anyone, let alone the minority groups.

So, how do we answer the questions set above, in terms of our present system failure with regard to racism in particular?

First, is the question of what the system was supposed do to work as designed. This questions quickly reminds us that while many systems of society aspire to achieve equality for all, they were simply not designed that way; they were built often on the backs of gross injustices to vulnerable and exploited groups, built to especially oppress those who used to have everything but had it forcibly and unfairly stolen from them; built such that such groups of people may never ever get to re-acquire what they had stolen from them, or the enjoy the profit from their forced, primarily unpaid, labour.

On the other hand, the systems were built to pave and cement the way for the oppressors to retain everything that was stolen; built to provide privilege to the oppressors and their descendants; built to furnish their pleasures, desires and wildest dreams; built to control access to these resources for the exclusive use of the oppressors. You only have to look at systems such as apartheid in South Africa, Segregation in America and colonialism around the world to validate this point.

On the question of what the system is doing incorrectly right now, it turns out that this may not be as black and white as perhaps imagined; one needs to remember, understand or identify what correctly means in this instance, and for a system built to uphold racism in all manners possible, be it overtly, covertly or through a sinister and insidious blend of the two with severe micro-aggressions, then correctly means doing exactly that.

To work incorrectly, therefore, is to fail to uphold racism as explained.

It is no surprise that whenever this system of oppression and discrimination is questioned or challenged on its meritable use, a significant majority of those for whom the privilege was designed to benefit rise up to either dismiss, downplay or outright deny its existence, or in some cases argue that:

although such systems may have existed in the past, in fact, today there has been so much progress on the race equality front that one can hardly see any racism anywhere, but we recognise that there is still some progress to be made”.

What is important to keep in mind, is of course the data and statistics, hard facts that fly in the face of any such claim to “huge” progress, not to mention the entirely valued first-hand experiences of this vile racism by nearly every minority or vulnerable group in those societies.

And while this does not mean no progress has been made at all, it certainly does mean that nowhere near enough progress has been made, as the numerous race disparity reports continue to pile up and each time show the problem is stagnant or in some cases getting even worse!

It is no easy task to forego a system built to support you no matter what, in favour of including others on the same table at which you eat favourably, thereby having to share, which means losing some or in some cases all of your very big usually disproportionate share of the cake as it were. As we all know, sharing has always been a contentious subject even for children, so it’s fair not to let your hopes up too high, although eventually we learn that sharing is caring and somehow accept to do the task.

What is even more perplexing is how the privileged group tends to have no problem whatsoever in sharing with each other! When you look at the wealthiest and most privileged people in society from the racial angle, it’s clear to see who they are happy to share all that huge wealth with: each other and a tolerated or select few but these are always exceptions and not the rule itself. The rule is only white people are allowed at the high table worldwide, unless special circumstances dictate otherwise, in which case a sparse minority may also find themselves at the top of the order of society that was designed based on affording privilege to a specific group over all others.

So, that question above is best seen from both angles to see why some arguments are put forward in the course of any discussion on matters of racism and discrimination; if you are in the privileged group then the system asking you to share is not how it is supposed to work, but if you’re from a disadvantaged group then the system not allowing you to share may deny you benefits but it is working perfectly as designed!

Moving on to the question of when the system actually broke is bound to invoke our knowledge of our history. We must first educate ourselves with this knowledge before we can understand when the system had a malfunction or outright failure.

At this point, an important distinction of fact must be noted:

It is one thing for a particular system to be designed to work in a particular way, and another for it to be expected to work in a particular way.

Philosophically, this brings up the concepts of is and ought. Since we are talking about racism, a system of oppression and discrimination, we can say that this belongs to the broader discipline of Ethics (moral philosophy) and includes the concept of justice, which in turn brings up jurisprudence and interacts with political philosophy.

If we are to assume the moral position that racism is an injustice that no one in society should ever have to endure, then this is our “ought” position. However, if we then discover that racism has indeed been and continues to be endured by so many in society, then our moral position has been violated and challenged, and we must quickly work to resolve this to avoid any further harm continuing to be inflicted on another human being.

This means the question of when the system failed now turns to its comparison, as is, to another system that ought to be.

Finally we get to the last question of what actually changed in the system, in order that we can correct it as it were, to “revert” the system to a state that it should be working at in order to be considered fixed.

To do this, we need to carefully examine our race relations within the communities from which we operate and live our lives, make a living and so on.

As shown above, if we held that there was a time in history when things were not yet altered to the complete disadvantage and oppression of one group by another based on racial identity, then it quickly becomes a matter of identifying the key moments and events in our past prior to these injustices being carried out; just like a computer system has a backup history (if backup is enabled and scheduled), looking for the last time the system worked relatively smoothly without the raceware called racism, creates an opportunity to target any such changes to the system (society) that led to this anomalous and harmful behaviour that is eating up our society and spreading at a rate not so different to that of a computer virus or indeed a real-world viral infection, destroying and ruining millions of lives along the way.

What changed, according to this proposition, is that a raceware virus infected all our systems of life giving rise to numerous fatal failures of every facet of our societies that, if it at all ever served all people equally without harm, prejudice, disadvantage or oppression of any other group or person, then that system must be reinstalled or if this has never been the case, then a new operating system with these specifications must be installed on the main system to allow all good working order to prevail.

Most importantly, though, is the action that follows any new installation or corrective change to a system which includes maintenance, repairs and upgrades. We must be prepared to and indeed do carry out the necessary reviews to make sure that the system works as intended and that no raceware has been installed to re-infect the components and create multiple vulnerabilities. We must install an ANTI-VIRUS onto our system (society), a body to always be on the lookout for any “bad apples” and not just identify them but also immediately DESTROY them by removing them from the entire system.

What remains true is that racism is multidimensional, and affects people of all ages and all races, but throughout history especially increasingly recently, Black people have been at the worse end of this gross injustice in so many different forms perhaps more than any other group in modern history, notwithstanding all other important cases of this virus.

Whether you say the words “Black Lives Matter” or not, or you “Take A Knee” or not, the important thing to note is that the raceware virus is alive and well in today’s society and no action has been taken, to the level that one would reasonably expect, that is required to root out such an infectious virus with a very persistent and sustained high mortality rate.

It’s also worth reaffirming that no one should ever have to experience racism, and certainly no one should ever enable a system that implements or allows racism to flourish, whether at their own hands or indirectly, simply because they might be at risk of losing some or all of the privilege they have been given notwithstanding their own hard work if any, but hard work to maintain the privilege nonetheless.

Wiping out the raceware virus will inevitably lead to a more equal opportunity system where one’s race is not one of, or even the primary or central determinant of their success in a given society.

By troubleshooting racism, we arrive at a more morally acceptable, ethically sound society that values individual or group merit and character among other things, and relies on race if and only if only to correct an injustice done towards a particular group or person.

Whatever the benefits of such a society, the disadvantages and harms of racism would play no part, and that’s got to be a world worth fighting for!

Black Lives Matter.


(Special thanks to my wife EES for sitting through this one!)

And thanks to you all for taking the time to read this, hopefully you take something away that’s of some importance.

2 thoughts on “The System Is Broken: troubleshooting racism (BLM edition)

  1. This is very insightful thank you

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