Last fall I argued with a friend that we don’t have much systemic racism in this country. My friend said we do and defined “systemic racism” as policies that aren’t necessarily intended to hurt black people disproportionately but do hurt them disproportionately.
Once he said it that way, I agreed. I thought of black people being disproportionately arrested for drugs, stopped more often by police even when it doesn’t end in confrontation, etc.
And I found this definition in an article in USA Today last June:
[NAACP President Derrick] Johnson defined systemic racism, also called structural racism or institutional racism, as “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantages [sic] African Americans.”
Given more time to think, I’ve realized that there’s a lot of systemic racism. One of the big ones is minimum wage laws, which hurt black youth disproportionately.
Milton Friedman was aware of that point back in 1966. In his Newsweek column “Minimum-Wage Rates, September 26, 1966, discussing Congress’s passage of a bill to raise the minimum wage from $1.25 an hour to $1.60 an hour in 1968, Friedman wrote:
Women, teenagers, Negroes, and particularly Negro teenagers will be especially hard hit. I am convinced that the minimum-wage law is the most anti-Negro law on our statute books–in its effect not its intent.
Actually, if you examine the history, you find that it was anti-black in intent also as recently as the previous decade. Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy, who favored the minimum wage, was explicit that he wanted to hamper competition from black workers in the South. But Friedman’s point remains. Intent aside, the minimum wage law is effectively anti-black.
Senator Bernie Sanders, in his all-out drive to get a $15 minimum wage, is pushing to have employers taxed extra if they don’t pay that minimum. If Bernie were to succeed, and it appears, fortunately, that he won’t, then black youths would be disproportionately hurt.