There is no capitalism without racism, says Angela Davis. The activist and scholar has a communist past, but on this one, he is hardly radical.
The idea that capitalism is incurably racist to its profit-counting bones was scripture in some progressive neighborhoods even before the murder of George Floyds opened a lens on bigotry beyond the police. A recently published book by another scholar, capitalism equals racism.
That white capitalists have exploited people of color for centuries is indisputable, from the Dixies plantations and land theft under Jim Crow at red districts and work discrimination today. Instead of reopening all those capitalist businesses closed by COVID-19, should we abolish them?
Anti-capitalists ignore a sadder and more inconvenient truth. To tweak Davis to be more precise, there is no economic system, period, without racism. And there is much we can do to dilute bigotry in our system.
Cedric Robinson, Pioneer Black Studies Fellow found that capitalism evolved from Western societies already steeped in racial discrimination; Feudal Europe did not hum Kumbaya. And besides, the African kings who kept slaves to defend their wealth and power, before 18th-century European traders landed on shore and turned slave possession into an industrial-scale profit machine.
My point is not to deny the systemic racism of American capitalisms. Rather, it is to stifle instinctive utopian notions that racism is nothing less than a universal infestation between different economies and cultures.
As a Boston University researcher Jim bessen, who has studied racial wage disparities, told me: A more pessimistic view might say that civilization can inherently introduce tribal antagonisms leading to racism. And not just Western civilization.
The lost Marxist may seek racial and ethnic harmony in self-proclaimed working-class havens such as China. The million Uyghurs and other Muslims parked in concentration camps by Xi Jinping would probably be different. Their fate is the last link of a historical channel of racism in the People’s Republic.
Socialist regimes have also failed the fraternity test. It is only recently that Cuba has started to overtake maneuver black Cubans at the margins of political and economic equality. Fidel Castro may have declared his nation delivered from racism by his revolution, but a young Cuban activist in 2018 dissident: For me, Cuba is very, very racist, one of the most racist countries in the world.
Perhaps anti-capitalists believe that the lava of racial hatred has cooled in northern climates and the egalitarian ethos of nations practicing democratic socialism. (Which, despite the name, is actually capitalism with regulatory and safety guardrails that are more robust than ours. But too bad.)
Alas, if they look at Scandinavia or Canada, they must look for Eden elsewhere. In recent years, the The UN has declared itself concerned on Swedish racism against Africans, Jews, Muslims and Roma. A journalist who lived in Denmark find economic inequality for non-Western immigrants; and racist newspaper cartoons tarnishing Denmark’s beloved Bernie Sanderss while Norway grapples with Islamophobia.
Canada repents a history of notoriously abusive schools for indigenous children and pollution of [Native] traditional territory.
My point is not to deny the systemic racism of American capitalisms. Rather, it is to stifle instinctive utopian notions that racism is nothing less than a universal infestation between different economies and cultures. Traveling the world with open eyes and minds confirms New York professor and contributor Nicholas Lemanns observation that it is possible to be anti-capitalist without being anti-racist, and anti-racist without being anti-capitalist.
Indeed, Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged capitalism, but the enthusiasm of civil rights martyrs seems to have been for democratic socialism, which, as I mentioned, would make him an ultra-progressive capitalist, and not J. Edgar Hoovers’ rabid comic, feverish nightmares.
“It is possible to be anti-capitalist without being anti-racist and anti-racist without being anti-capitalist.”
We abolished slavery to make capitalism less racist in the 19th century. In the 21st, it does not take a democratic socialist to chart the next steps in this journey, which is far from over. Bessen favors a specific surgical intervention: forbidding employers to inquire about the salary history of candidates. Since past discrimination suppress the wages of blacks, knowing these wages allows employers to minimize the wages offered to minority hires. Prohibited states have narrowed the racial wage gap, his research shows.
It’s just for beginners. We could also create public works jobs in black neighborhoods ravaged by the evaporation of jobs documented by an academic William Julius Wilson; pay for healthy food markets food desserts, at a time when 14 million American children not having enough to eat; making public colleges free, a ticket to the middle class for disadvantaged people of all races; and enact Obamacare for All to begin addressing racial disparities in health care. And elect more compassionate leaders than our incumbent president and his congressional hoes.
None of this would make us a less capitalist society. he would have make it less racist.
40 years ago, a university study asked: “Does socialism mean greater equality?“If only the world were so simple. Focusing on that era of the leading socialist power, the Soviet Union, the article answered its own question: no.
This answer has not changed.
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