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Capitalism: An Intentional System of Racial Inequality

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

"Racial capitalism" is not an easily recognizable form of racism, unlike slavery, but it is an essential part of why we experience systemic racism in America. Our system of capitalism was built on the foundation of racism and racial classifications. Race is a class structure that incorporates innate power based on differences. Capitalism can only survive if racism exists. In order to understand the racial implications embedded in our country’s DNA, we must first explore how these systems came to be.

The idea that we can create an equitable society, one of equitable opportunity, black and brown success, and an equalized playing field of wealth is impossible to discuss without examining and understanding the history of capitalism and the role it has played in the oppression of black and brown people.

American capitalism was built on racial exploitation, rooting from the integral role that slave labor played on building this nation’s economic system, further resulting in the segregation and discrimination that is still prevalent in today’s labor markets. Black and brown Americans consistently fall victim to lower wages and less household wealth than white Americans. Today, the median white family has 13 times more wealth than the median Black family.

Consider this: the richest 1% of Americans own 40% of the country’s wealth, while more people of working-age live in poverty here than in any other nation, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It is a world where quantity outweighs quality and everyone, except that 1%, suffers from these inequities. The why is obvious: the need for “select” white superiority. The how falls on the misfortune of nonwhites and the “non-select” through poverty, cruelty, and barbarism.

What do I mean by "select?" I mentioned that that richest 1% of Americans own 40% of the country’s wealth. If you are an average, white American you may find yourself considering how you play a role in this when you may be barely above the line of poverty yourself. Even if you are a well-off, "comfortable" white American, you are still working, just at the top of that working-class. If you are black or brown, regardless of social class, you most likely already understand. That is where "select" comes into play.

In the 1880s and '90s, the majority players/leaders of our country (all whites), had a choice during the creation of Labor Laws. Either level the playing field and provide equitable job opportunity for all, by which all races would be considered equal, be given the same pay, same opportunity for advancement, and the ability to participate in labor unions. Their other choice was to agree that social inequities and a system of hierarchy was more important than allowing everyone equal opportunity.

To remedy the damages of enslavement and the economic impact it had on Black and brown people would have been the creation of equal labor laws. That meant that not all families of color would enjoy the benefits of “whiteism,” just the select group and their descendants, would experience the benefits of classism, financial freedom and power. Furthermore, they concluded that if capitalism is doing its job, at least white is not Black. Therefore, to be white is still better than being nonwhite. The result is the capitalist country we have today.

Racism is not simply a Black and white issue, racism is an issue of class. Black and brown people endured and continue to endure the greatest hardships in a racist regime. However, by making it an issue only of color that we remain blind to the opportunities to remedy this global crisis. If we can disassociate the color of our skin from our identity, we could come together and spread the wealth of the 1% among us all, as opposed to fighting for equal opportunity of the working class – many of whom still live in poverty and often paycheck to paycheck. In other words, if we understood that we are being taught to see class as a color, and eliminate that idea, we can be the driving force of change: all colors, genders, cultures, religions, and everything in between. We become 99% against 1%. The odds are obvious.


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