Attacking systemic racism or adding more bureaucracy?




Following months of racial unrest and protests, the country is struggling with Black Lives Matter claims that America is awash in systemic racism.

There may be benefits to a broad examination of government policies that could perpetuate negative impacts on minorities.  

But the question is: How much change is warranted and what is the best way to accomplish it? 

The “systemic racism” narrative is promoted so widely that it is taken as undeniably true.  

Businesses and local and state government agencies spend upwards of $10,000 an hour for tutorials on how to eliminate their own purported systemic, institutional racism.  Schools and colleges have tripped over themselves denouncing white privilege and systemic racism. 

It’s become accepted fact that racism accounts for most disparities among races, whether in educational achievement, employment rates, income gaps, crime rates, policing policies, or health. Individual behavior, family structure, and cultural attitudes are dismissed as factors.  If you argue that they are, you risk being accused of being racist.

It is universally acknowledged that our country, like many countries, has a history of slavery and racism.  Today, instances of racism regrettably still exist. What seems not to be acknowledged is the progress our country has  made in securing voting rights, improving educational opportunities, and promoting economic advancement for minority Americans. 

Today, 131 of our 535-member Congress are black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native-American. African American college-graduation rates have quadrupled over the past six decades. The United States remains the place millions of emigrating “people of color” choose when looking for opportunity.

In Juneau, after four meetings of the municipal Human Rights Commission with public participation, a draft ordinance establishing a new Systemic Racism Review Committee (SRRC) was forwarded to the Assembly for action.              

During discussions, one Assembly member commented that the ordinance was addressing a “massive problem we are trying to solve.”

After minor changes, the ordinance was set for public hearing on August 24.

It would establish an appointed 7-member committee responsible for reviewing all assembly ordinances and resolutions that may contain a “systemic racism policy or implication”. The committee would also be responsible for recommending a cure.

Thus far, no Assembly or city staff member has identified a single concrete example of systemic racism in Juneau. 

The ordinance, which is both vague and unlimited in scope, doesn’t either.

The term “systemic racism” is not clearly defined other than an act, practice, or policy that would have a “significant discriminatory impact on a protected group.”

Defining the committee’s mission this way, there will be no need to prove a policy or act is racist – only that there is disparate impact.  This would be de facto evidence that racism exists.

The SRRC would have wide latitude to delve into virtually all facets of city government including the budget, hiring practices, housing policies, homelessness issues, education curriculum, and policing practices, to name just a few.

The anticipated workload for the SRRC was deemed so burdensome, the Assembly discussed hiring a consultant and requested that staff draft an ordinance to provide $50,000 in initial funding. 

Aside from the bureaucratic overload and financial drain this SRRC would create, the potential recommendations that could be forthcoming should be of concern.

Indeed, a draft resolution accompanying the ordinance from the Human Rights Commission says in part, that with the “execution of George Floyd, one case of endless cases…the City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) must face the unique and local history of racism”.  The HRC further suggests that the CBJ must embrace the ten demands of local black leadership which include expansive powers of oversight of our police department and schools.

To vest this much power and public authority in a group of unelected committee members would be extraordinary and unprecedented.

Juneau’s current Human Rights Commission, with some modifications, has the ability to solicit and receive public testimony and make recommendations to the Assembly about policies and practices that may have racial implications.

Should creating an additional expensive layer of bureaucracy with an undefined goal of eliminating “systemic racism” be a priority now?

Or rather, should our city leaders be focusing on improving our faltering economy, thereby improving opportunity and quality of life for everyone?

Win Gruening retired as the senior vice president in charge of business banking for Key Bank in 2012. He was born and raised in Juneau and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970. He is active in community affairs as a 30-plus year member of Juneau Downtown Rotary Club and has been involved in various local and statewide organizations.


  1. It appears to me that the only ‘systemic racism’ in America is being directed against white citizens. The Human Rights Commission provides enough legal, moral and realistic condemnation and action against all forms of racism, when they do their job. Another ‘specialty’ racism department, aimed at whites, is not the answer. If anything, it will make the issue real, more toxic, and provide a “Jim Crow” lever against white citizens. Those citizens that pay taxes and work for a living are being demonized because they have the incentive and ambition to do that. The “disenfranchised” are mostly welfare pros and unmotivated to work or try harder. Finding a job is not high on their ‘to do’ list. Easier to live off the system and cry racist if they don’t have what working Americans, of all colors, have, and they want it for nothing. Leftists fully support them. Nothing like a political ‘sucker punch’ to wake people up. Don’t forget, someone has to pay for their new ‘systemic racism’ committee. That committee, if nothing else will generate unheard of systemic racism that is currently only a figment of leftist imagination.

  2. Break it down into simpler components:

    – The government already provides affirmative action programs that treat minorities better than Casper ever gets treated. The government aspect is already weighted.

    – On a personal level there are those that don’t have the highest regard for black people. That pool appears to be deepening over the course of the last few months and you’re definitely not going to make any of them think differently by telling them they must.

    – Good thing come to those who wait, but only those things left over by those that hustled. Work boots will improve their lives more than their hero’s basketball shoes.

    Doesn’t much matter though. As soon as Mr. Trump is re-elected these POS’ will be declared terrorists and enemies of the State and handled in the manner they so richly deserve. I’d bet a nickel the mayors and governors that have promoted disarray will be held accountable as well. Would be if I were at the helm. I will revel in that announcement.

  3. Trouble is, the entire human race is guilty of racism and Slavery. Throughout history slavery and racism has been the norm. What is surprising is that by every measure Americans are more free today then at anytime in history and yet it seems that there is a preoccupation of worry about racism? Oh, wait, I forgot, this is an election year, sorry. Racism must be all that the Democrats have to offer.

  4. Win, thank you for calling out that NOT A SINGLE concrete example was provided of systemic racism in our fair town of Juneau. Thus, this committee has basically given itself a blank check with no way to know if they have eliminated or improved conditions for, let’s face it, mostly black Americans.
    Yes, I said black Americans. Here in Alaska, we’ll also include our Native population, but we all know who this committee is going to focus on “righting the wrongs” for. Japanese minorities? Nope. Korean? Nope. Filipinos? Nope. These are all minorities that have a reputation for working hard and succeeding all over America. It is as if they do NOT have time for crime, protest, or blaming.
    In fact, the most blatant systemic racism that should be apparent to all is Affirmative Action. It has been applied so well that an Asian student must score upwards of two levels higher to get into many State colleges than a Black student. How does the college differentiate between two different test score requirements? By race. Somehow, I doubt this committee will look into that. But at least there is one example, Win.
    Let’s hope the public comes out to expose for all that the emperor has no clothes.

  5. Sad to see our State buying into this progressive fiction of “systemic racism” in America. That is not to say we do not have incidents of racism in Alaska. We do, but a sledgehammer approach to fixing racists incidents does not fix the problem, it just makes liberals feel good. We have plenty of laws that make racists acts illegal. Instead of defunding the police in Juneau, maybe enforcing existing laws, prosecuting those who commit racist acts, and sending the guilty to prison will get better results than trying to politically engineer society with feel good actions. What is even more dangerous to a democratic society is to establish another layer of bureaucracy by setting up a commission to review assembly resolutions and ordinances for systemic racist wording.” Is that suggesting the current Assembly members can not recognize racist statements when they write their own laws? Guess the Juneau Assembly thinks a Twitter censor-like system will make for better government and give them cover from their own lack of ability to avoid racism when they write ordinances and resolutions. Reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984 Ministry of Truth. Just more liberal over-reach to grow government and systemically conform us all to think like them.

  6. So, look, do we have racism and discrimination in the US? in Alaska? If so, what should we do about it?

    All I hear are a bunch of tired, old statements about what we should not do. No one is interested in fixing a problem when it benefits them. It really boils down to people finding reasons to be selfish. Do you really need a 2000 channel cable package or a new truck every three years. Sure, we can’t give everyone, everything for free but we can share a little starting with better opportunities. Basically, well off people are hoarding opportunities from the poor.

    At a minimum, we should actively enforce all existing discrimination laws in housing and employment. Especially housing. Who could be against following the law?

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