Those Dirty Words - Systemic Racism: The Games We Play
Updated: Jul 20
Part 2 of the series covering systemic racism
“Policies and practices that exist throughout a whole society or organization, and that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race” - Cambridge Dictionary No one person is accountable for systemic racism, yet we are all implicated in this biased system. The construct has existed for centuries, and our individual social standing in that system depends on random factors: our location & era of birth, our gender and our color.
The power structure of a region, country, organization - let’s call them the establishment. History shows that establishments were homogenous (and male) in their groupings, and these groups defined, through their homogeneous perspective, what constituted a society. Scholars and clergy were the establishment in some cultures, while aristocracies were in others. Some establishments were built by persecuted people who fled to find better opportunities, and others were formed by brute force.
A System of Games
Now, imagine the establishment of centuries ago, were the game designers of their day. They conceptualized a societal challenge that people in their community should strive to achieve.
Create a Nation
Prevail in Commerce
Build a Meritocracy
A game board and rules set the boundaries for each competition. Game pieces of different values were designed to give advantages to players, helping them to advance more quickly through the game. Game pieces included natural resources, tools, money, slaves, alliances, education and weapons. They were distributed among the inaugural players at the start of the game. And players could also try to collect the coveted game pieces during the game. Some players started with very little, while others had an abundance. The individual goals for those in these games were to succeed, live your purpose and enable your descendants to successfully continue the game.
Games For The Masses, But Not For All
Millions of people in America and Europe were part of the system to build societies and commerce. Not everyone was eligible to play though. Take for example early America’s Founding Fathers who wrote the US Constitution in 1787. They were the game designers, and the Constitution was the set of game instructions for their new country. Slaves were mentioned, but only as “game pieces” with a value attached to the property owners. The rules stipulated that Indigenous people were not to be included in the American society, and women were never once mentioned in the Constitution. In a newly founded country which proclaimed that “All men are created equal”, the only participants in the game were white men.
With the game in play, the players diligently worked to build their life in the society - some gaining status along the way, and becoming a part of the establishment. Once in the game, players pass their game pieces (property, alliances, access to education, and financial wealth) to their heirs. These privileges accumulate as they are passed through the generations. They become the birthright for newer generations and most were unaware of their own privilege.
Find out in the next part of this series.