1) If there aren’t any racist laws on the books, how can we have a racist society?
2) I don’t get what the difference is between racism and structural/systemic racism.
It helps to distinguish individual racism from systemic racism. Individual racism is the racist attitudes and actions of individuals. Systemic racism is the way a social system privileges some and disadvantages others. While America’s systemic racism was held in place for centuries by laws that oppressed people of color—laws that have been thankfully (though often reluctantly) overturned—the momentum of this centuries-old white-favoring system continues to this day. And it this momentum that continues to allow (for example) the pattern of police abuse against people of color. And this is precisely why multitudes are now rising up to call for radical reforms to eradicate racism from the American system, which includes the police force, our system of education, economics, government, etc.
Whether you’re talking about a traffic system, a system of education, or an economic system, you know a system works when the people using it don’t notice it. Efficient systems tend to run on autopilot, so we only notice a system when it stops working. Because the American system works for them, white people generally have a robust confidence in the goodness of the system that black and brown communities do not share. This is why when a video shows white police officers abusing their authority against people of color, many whites interpret the event in terms of the individual officer’s choices and cannot see the systemic structures that allowed this abuse to continue for centuries up to the present day. On top of this, psychological studies show it’s hard for people to notice something when they benefit from not noticing that thing.
Because we are called to love and care for all our neighbors, we believe white Christians are called to join forces with their black and brown brothers to bring an end to this systemic racism.1