It is my earnest attempt to keep this as word nerdy and apolitical as possible, but given the way this word is being tossed around of late, I thought it warranted a closer look. So against my better judgment, I want to parse the word systemic, because I am fairly certain it doesn’t mean what most people think it means.
What can I say? Inigo Montoya looms large here at Reading in Between the Life. First, a definition, or more accurately, several definitions, from two etymological sources:
System (From Webster’s 1828 dictionary, where the word systemic isn’t listed):
1. An assemblage of things adjusted into a regular whole; or a whole plan or scheme consisting of many parts connected in such a manner as to create a chain of mutual dependencies; or a regular union of principles or parts forming one entire thing. Thus we say, a system of logic, a system of philosophy, a system of government, a system of principles, the solar system the Copernican system a system of divinity, a system of law, a system of morality, a system of husbandry, a system of botany or of chemistry.
2. Regular method or order.
Systemic (Merriam Webster online):
a: affecting the body generally systemic diseases
b: supplying those parts of the body that receive blood through the aorta rather than through the pulmonary artery
c: of, relating to, or being a pesticide that as used is harmless to the plant or higher animal but when absorbed into its sap or bloodstream makes the entire organism toxic to pests (such as an insect or fungus)
d: fundamental to a predominant social, economic, or political practice
So the word systemic shows a framework or “system” intentionally designed to produce a particular outcome, whether negative or positive, for particular citizens.
When you live in a system with layers upon layers of legal prohibitions and protections to ensure that certain positive outcomes are enhanced and other negative outcomes are reduced for all citizens (even when the positive outcomes aren’t merited and the negative outcomes are deserved), then it’s probably a good idea to think critically about whether the definition of the word, as it’s being espoused, is correct.
This is especially true when there is access to legal and historical information distinguishing a time when the system was one way, legally, and there is a clear and direct line of systemic reforms which show a pattern of moving from one system to another.
Lastly, “microaggressions” are interpersonal, one-on-one occurrences, and are therefore not acceptable examples or proof of systemic design. Humans gonna human, and we all suck sometimes in one way or another.
Now, go. Educate yourself. Most schools are not equipped to do it for you, at least not properly.