One will often read statistics like: "Black Americans are dying from the coronavirus at more than twice the rate of whites." The obvious inference, here, is that blacks have less access to healthcare than do whites. The story is the same when it comes to the wealth and income gaps, as well as access to education and so on. The disparities are simply undeniable.
It remains to be explained, however, whether this lack of opportunity is owed directly to economic circumstances, or whether it is a result of an ongoing and active kind of current racism. A black person who cannot afford healthcare is in a very different situation than a black person who is denied a job in favour of a white worker directly in virtue of his race.
In most conversations, it seems to me that people conflate these two perspectives. Without a doubt, the economic disparities we observe between blacks and whites has everything to do with America's history of racism. But if this is the case, it seems to me that the term systemic racism is slightly misleading because it does not mean that racism is currently systemically enforced. If, when people refer to systemic racism, they mean that people are actively pursuing the maintenance of these disparities, then they have a more difficult case to make. Generalized statistics certainly do not seem sufficient to support this narrative because of the economic layers.
Now, of course, this picture is complicated by the idea of implicit bias. Sure, there may not be as many vicious, believing and committed racists running around the US as there once was. You might say, then, that these disparities are deeply aggravated by an underlying psychological bias. But again, how are you supposed to demarcate the extent to which this bias is present versus other factors?
Defenders of the term are thus left with the unfalsifiable claim that implicit (and sometimes explicit) bias contribute significantly to the data, while denialists can simply argue that everything can be chalked up to "past racism." What are the best ways to get around these generalizations and further (and more precisely) parse what is obviously a complex issue?
EDIT: Let me put this another way for those who are confused. We observe disparities in many areas (wealth, education, healthcare, policing, etc.) between black people and non-black people. My question is this: How might we measure how much current/ongoing explicit and implicit prejudice accounts for maintaining these disparities versus other factors (cultural, sociological, economic, etc.)?
Here is a crude example. It could be the case that more black people are arrested than whites because cops are generally racist (implicitly or explicitly). But it could also be the case that black people just commit more crimes because of cultural and economic factors. Now, obviously the issue here is nuanced, it's not going to be a one or the other answer. How can we approximate the degree to which each is responsible for the statistical disparities we observe?