Bill Barr Busts the Myth of 'Systemic Racism' in Police and the Justice System

Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

On Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr directly contradicted the idea that there is “systemic racism” among police departments and in America’s justice system. He admitted that some police may be racist but insisted that America’s systems have been reformed in order to combat racism. While the attorney general said some further reform is still necessary, he firmly rejected the notion of “systemic racism.”


CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Barr whether there are “two justice systems” for white and black Americans.

“No, I don’t think there are two justice systems,” the attorney general said. “I think the narrative that the police are on some epidemic of shooting unarmed black men is simply a false narrative, and also the narrative that that’s based on race.”

“The fact of the matter is, it’s very rare for an unarmed African American to be shot by a white police officer. There were ten cases last year, six of them the suspect was attacking the police officer physically. So they are rare things compared to the 7,000-8,000 young black men who are killed every year,” Barr explained.

Blitzer mentioned Barr’s denial of the idea that there is “systemic racism” in the justice system.

“To me the word ‘systemic’ means that it’s built into the institution and I don’t think that’s true,” the AG said. “I think our institutions have been reformed in the past 60 years, and if anything is built-in, it’s a bias to nondiscrimination and safeguards against [racism.]”

“Racism usually means that I believe that because of your race you’re a lesser human being than me. I think there are people in the United States who feel that way but I don’t think it is as common as people suggest and I think we have safeguards to ensure that it doesn’t really have an effect on someone’s future,” Barr added. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress in the past 60 years. To listen to the American Left nowadays, you’d think we have gotten nowhere.”


The attorney general did not deny that police regard young black men with a certain suspicion.

“I think there are some situations where statistics would suggest they are treated differently but I don’t think that that’s necessary racism,” he explained.

“Didn’t Jesse Jackson say that when he looks behind him and he sees a group of young black males walking behind him, he’s more scared than when he sees a group of white youths walking behind him?” Barr asked. “Does that make him a racist?”

The AG admitted that there is “more progress” to be done, but he insisted that “the demonization of the police and the idea that this is so widespread an epidemic is simply wrong.”

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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