Does Capitalism = Systemic Racism?

Over at the Village Voice website the provocative African American critical theorist and savvy analyst of U.S. society, Greg Tate, offers “Top 10 Reasons Why So Few Black Folk Appear Down To Occupy Wall Street,” a humorous and sarcastic take on this issue. (See other comments on Tate’s piece here and here.) Most of the Occupy movements do appear to have been disproportionately white.

One barbed reason Tate offers is that African Americans want to see the OWS movement stay alive. If it got to be known as a “Black Thing,” then white officials like

Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly would feel compelled to set more upon the movement than decrepit desk sergeants with pepper spray.

Another point is that African Americans already have a “radical heart,” which has been shown many times. They are certainly not afraid to participate:

Protest history shows our folk couldn’t be turned around by deputized terrorists armed with dynamite, firebombs, C4, tanks, AKs, machine guns, fixed bayonets, billy clubs, K-9 corps, truncheons, or water hoses. Stop-and-frisk has prepped most brothers to anticipate a cell block visit just for being Slewfoot While Black.

That is, African Americans have never shown they were scared of fighting societal oppression.

Two of his reasons get seriously at the core issue of the relationships of contemporary capitalism and systemic racism. One more reason is that African Americans have long ago realized something that the OWS folks seem to be late in coming to understand–that is,

that American elites never signed the social contract and will sell the people out for a fat cat’s dime—hey, no news flash over here. Black folk got wise to the game back in 1865 when we realized neither 40 acres nor a mule would be forthcoming.

Then Tate’s number one reason gets even deeper into this issue. Capitalism, as usually framed in OWS discussion, is often of less immediate concern to black Americans than systemic racism:

Experience shows that racism can trump even greed in Amerikkka—especially in the workplace. White dudes with prison records get hired over more qualified bloods with not even jaywalking citations. You don’t have to be as high up the food chain as banker-scum to benefit from white supremacy or profit sideways from the mass povertization of the Negro.

Tate’s points about the need to consider the relationships of actual capitalism and racism brought to my mind just how Western capitalism got its first huge surges of capital and wealth, in the process Karl Marx called “primitive accumulation.” Recall this famous passage from Das Kapital:

The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation. . . . [They all] depend in part on brute force, e.g., the colonial system. But, they all employ the power of the State, the concentrated and organised force of society, to hasten, hot-house fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode . . . . [C]apital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.

Western capitalistic wealth and production thus began with the violent looting of resources and forcible enslavement of numerous populations. All these chief moments of early capitalistic wealth accumulation involve non-Europeans–indigenous peoples, Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans—those racialized as “not white” in the dominant racial framing of white Americans ever since. Capitalism is so intertwined with systemic racism in its distant historical origins and contemporary history that it has been a mistake for analysts and activists to try to separate them. To the present day. Capital today still often comes “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”


  1. cordoba blue

    Does capitalism equal systemic racism? Let’s see how our “tolerant” Russian allies are faring in the anti-racism department. This is taken from a Radio Free Europe post, not exactly a radical right wing blog.By Country / Russia
    Russia: Rights Groups Say Fascism, Racism Flourishing
    May 05, 2005
    By Claire Bigg

    Russian Nationalists at a Moscow rally in 2004

    Russia may seem like an unlikely breeding ground for neo-Nazism considering the devastation German Nazi troops wrought on the country. On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, however, Russian human rights groups are warning of growing ultra-nationalist feelings in the country. RFE/RL correspondent Claire Bigg reports from Moscow.

    Moscow, 5 May 2005 (RFE/RL) — As Russia prepares to commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Russian human rights activists are denouncing what they call an upsurge of RACISM, XENOPHOBIA, and NEO-NAZISM (caps are mine) in the country.

    Speaking at a news conference in Moscow yesterday, the activists called on Russians not to forget that the Soviet Union also repressed, deported, and massacred ethnic minorities. (Now that’s a surprise given that only CAPITALISM CAUSES RACISM. My comments.)

    Alla Gerber, who heads the Holocaust Foundation in Moscow, said that despite the defeat of Nazi Germany, fascism is deeply ingrained in the Russian mindset. Fascism is a broad term used in Russia to describe any xenophobic attitude, including Nazism.

    “We have gathered today on the eve of Victory Day because fascism was not defeated at the root, in the conscience of people, because fascism was always associated with the invaders,” Gerber said. “Hitler’s Germany was fascist, yes, but we haven’t done anything, said anything about the country we lived in, and what happened to us, and today we are witnessing the consequences.”

    At the news conference, the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights released a report on racism, xenophobia, and neo-Nazism in Russia based on the results of recent opinion polls.

    According to the report, half of Russians consider that foreigners in Russia have “too much power” and say they are ready to support measures limiting the presence of nationals from former Soviet Central Asian countries.

    The reports also showed that one-third of Russians described neo-Nazis as “cleansers of society” (Now that’s another surprise given that it is the CAPITALISTS of the world who always usher in racism. My comment.) while 43 percent of respondents said they were disturbed by the presence of foreign nationals in Russia.

    Participants at the conference said xenophobic feelings were exacerbated by the Beslan hostage tragedy in September. That attack, in which more than 330 people were killed, was blamed on militants linked to the Chechen rebel movement.

    Meanwhile, reports of attacks on foreigners have multiplied in recent months — the latest on 2 March, when two Algerian students were beaten up in the Moscow metro. Both suffered minor injuries.

    Others, however, have not been so lucky.

    Last year in Moscow and St. Petersburg, a Georgian man was stabbed to death, a Vietnamese student was murdered, an Uzbek migrant worker was beaten and stabbed to death, and a 9-year-old Tajik girl was killed in front of her father by a band of teenagers armed with knifes and chains.

    In most cases, witnesses described the assailants as “skinheads.”

    The authorities, however, often file such attacks under “hooliganism,” a charge that angers human rights groups.

    Aleksandr Brod, the director of Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, denounced what he calls a lack of political will to fight ultranationalists groups in Russia.

    “Russia doesn’t have any planned government policy to counter racism, xenophobia, and neo-Nazism,” Brod said. (Now that’s a surprise given that only CAPITALIST countries neglect to address racism and xenophobia. My comment.) “Looking at these brown [racist] newspapers, we see that hundreds of books promoting pogroms and Nazism and dozens of videos are being released and actively sent to libraries, schools, and higher-education institutions. But where is the governmental program to issue antifascist films and books?”

    Like many human rights advocates, Brod said the Russian government turns a blind eye to the activities of ultranationalist groups in order to promote its own interests.

    “We have the impression that the presence of these brown [racist] forces is very beneficial to someone. This is a well-tested method: neo-Nazi forces, publications, and groups are supported, an atmosphere of fear is created, and then the conclusion is made that the current president is needed otherwise a fascist president will come to power.” (WoW! A manipulative Machiavellian government when I thought it was only the CAPITALIST countries who were capable of surreptitious conniving. My comment.)

    The wave of attacks has already forced a number of foreign students in Russia to drop out of university and go home.

    In March alone, 15 students from Arab countries abandoned their studies in St. Petersburg and left Russia following a series of attacks on foreigners.
    The bottom line is that with all due respect for Joe’s opinions, I don’t see a causal link between capitalism and racism. It’s true that to further capitalist gain, Africans were shipped here for centuries to become part of the American forced labor machine. However, white Europeans were biased against other ethnic groups long before capitalism became prevalent internationally. In the Middle Ages,under the feudal system, not exactly the most enlightened period by any means, racism ran rampant.This didn’t have anything to do with capitalism, but rather an ignorance and genuine fear and distrust of Jews, “black-a-moors” (Africans) and Asians and any race considered basically differing from Europeans.
    Let’s put the case (as Sherlock Holmes would say) that capitalism contributes to racism. Let’s put the case that USSR communism was a polar opposite political system than the one utilized by capitalist America. Thus, can we honestly say that there was/is less racism in Russia than in the US? Can we say that?
    How about Nazi Germany? That was identified as a Fascist society, not a capitalistic one. Was racism in Fascist Germany less prevalent there than it is in the United States? The fact is that racism is/was prevalent in many types of political systems around the planet.I still unfortunately don’t see a causal link between these two phenomenon.
    It’s true that capitalism, when abused by monstrous individuals caring little for the lives and well-being of others, can lead to cruel and racist outcomes. It is also true, in my opinion, that many other POLITICAL SYSTEMS have been guilty of racism as a means to an end. Whatever that end may be, whether it is political or monetary gain.
    Summarily, diminishing racism does not go hand-in-glove with diminishing capitalism. Diminishing racism calls for tolerance promoted by education and enlightened thinking. Capitalism, in and of itself, is not the egg from which racism hatches. It never has been. We can’t make generalizations about how the entire planet operates based on the last 400 years of American history. There’s that little matter of the last 25,000 years we need to take into consideration also. Very few societies were actually peace-loving. Very few societies were not self-serving. Very few societies hesitated to over-power neighboring societies if they thought it was achievable.
    This does not in any way excuse America for its imperialistic policies over the decades. However, there are positive ways to practice capitalism and deleterious ways to practice capitalism. In a true meritocracy, capitalism has a pivotal and positive function. The problem is we don’t live in a true meritocracy because of RACISM, NOT BECAUSE OF CAPITALISM.
    Certainly the Soviet Union ( a failed experiment in a government exemplifying the opposite of capitalism) had absolutely nothing to do with a society based on meritocracy. You did what you were told, and no matter how much effort and ambition you nurtured, it never came to fruition. Communism as practiced in Soviet Russia stifled creativity, promoted absolute conformity, and rewarded robotic mind-numbing obedience. Most of the commentators on here are too young to have any experience with the misery that Soviet Russia disseminated. America is the only country they have any real knowledge of, so it is America that garners the criticism. And in many ways America has a long way to go to achieve racial harmony and tolerance. But would somebody educate these children about how inane it is to make capitalism the scape goat?
    No worldy sophisticated historian can assume that by ridding the world of capitalism, we will effectively rid the world of racism. Peace. Thanks for reading. 🙂

    • ThirtyNine4Ever

      I wouldn’t think capitalism in and of itself leads to or results from systematic racism. I think any type of centralized power on any level simply help facilitate racism if it is present. Exploitation helps create and maintain wealth and power so maybe racial exploitation is a natural occurrence if power goes unchecked and there is a racial bias within that power.

      • cordoba blue

        WoW! Thirty-Nine said something I actually agree with! Yes..that’s my point! It’s the exploitation of human beings (which can occur in ANY system) that maintains wealth and power AS WELL AS racism if racism operates within that system. It’s not capitalism in and of itself that creates racism. Not so. We actually concur. Probably a rare first and only event. You can ignore me in the future if you’re embarrassed that you agreed with my hypothesis. I’ll understand. 🙂

  2. Blaque Swan

    Personally, I find it a bit insulting that white leftists are only just now finding enough fault with Wall St to make a mass movement of the issue. Setting aside the fact that maybe had they gotten this animated before, we’d have a public option and a raise in the taxes of the 1%. Setting all that aside, black folks have been raising concerns about big banks and Wall St for several, several years now. ACORN, even, was among the first to alert the public to the problems with sub-prime lending and credit default swaps; and we know what’s happened to them. Black cries for justice seem to go unheard, like a tree that falls with no one around to hear it.

    And if the problem is the wealth gap between the 1 and 99%, does that mean that they’re okay with the wealth gap between whites and people of color?

    Besides, maybe I’ve just seen too many confederate flags in my lifetime, or maybe I’ve seen too many lynching photos, I don’t know – but seeing that many white folks all packed in together sets something off in my amygdala, and I just want to stay far away. Especially since, as Tate pointed out, I do hope OWS has some success. Just not enough for them to fold up shop and leave people of color hanging. Pun unintended, but fitting.

    • ThirtyNine4Ever

      Well I think it is the unemployment that is driving these protests. There are tons of unemployed white people these days and I’m sure the ones that have been out of work the longest are the maddest. So I just assume that is what they care about, I can’t believe that most white people care too much about racial income gaps. I know a few of us do but I’m guessing it is a very small minority of the occupy crowd.

      • Blaque Swan

        Yeah, you’re right. It’s just frustrating. White unemployment is half that of blacks, but nobody seems to care about wealth injustice until it affects whites. I mean, I just checked and in the last 30 years – not even during our best years was our unemployment rate as low as what the white unemployment rate is now!

        It’s just frustrating. Clearly these protesters, neither OWS or the tea partyists, care about justice. They don’t want justice, they just don’t want to be black.

        • NDiv

          No one cares about anything until it effects them, generally.

          You see that in South Africa. Black unemployment is much worse than white, but the ruling class are bunch of rich black fat cats, and have gone way past caring about the black majority that elects them. The problem is not the race of the elected official or social movement, but the effectiveness of their policies at establishing justice and equal opportunity.

  3. cordoba blue

    Karl Marx was an idealistic philosopher. And he saw an agrarian society based on the worker having direct contact with the result of his labors. He wrote in the mid-1800’s when the Industrial Revolution was forever changing the way the world operated.
    Thomas Jefferson did not want America to become industrialized, now that we’re on the subject. He envisioned a nation of farmers, not manufacturers. He thought “working the land” and all the beautiful bucolic images that brings forth was psychologically beneficial for men in general. Who wanted smog-filled cities (even though these were after Jefferson’s time..he was beginning to get the idea with Alexander Hamilton’s Bank that this would herald a metropolis based society instead of an agrarian one).
    Anyway, back to Marx. It’s difficult to quote Marx in bits and get the full gist of his thoughts, because Marx himself evolved in his writing.
    “In a letter to Vera Zasulich dated 8 March 1881, Marx even contemplated the possibility of Russia’s bypassing the capitalist stage of development and building communism on the basis of the common ownership of land characteristic of the village mir.[83][100] While admitting that Russia’s rural “commune is the fulcrum of social regeneration in Russia”, Marx also warned that in order for the mir to operate as a means for moving straight to the socialist stage without a preceding capitalist stage, it “would first be necessary to eliminate the deleterious influences which are assailing it (the rural commune) from all sides.”[101] Given the elimination of these pernicious influences, Marx allowed, that “normal conditions of spontaneous development” of the rural commune could exist.[101] However, in the same letter to Vera Zasulich, Marx points out that “at the core of the capitalist system … lies the complete separation of the producer from the means of production.”[101] In one of the drafts of this letter, Marx reveals his growing passion for anthropology, motivated by his belief that future communism would be a return on a higher level to the communism of our prehistoric past. He wrote that ‘the historical trend of our age is the fatal crisis which capitalist production has undergone in the European and American countries where it has reached its highest peak, a crisis that will end in its destruction, in the return of modern society to a higher form of the most archaic type — collective production and appropriation’. He added that ‘the vitality of primitive communities was incomparably greater than that of Semitic, Greek, Roman, etc. societies, and, a fortiori, that of modern capitalist societies’.[10
    OK..let’s talk about this. Marx saw the advent of industrialization and the following addendum of capitalism as an inferior life style compared to the happy peasant. Do I disagree? Actually I don’t. I think country living, where the worker has direct contact with the finished product (say a pair of shoes made in his home) is preferable to working on a factory production line. Too true. Plus, industrialization and the mass movement of farmers to big industrialized centers created all kinds of social problems: smog, tenements, child labor, dangerous working conditions where the worker would have limbs cut off by machinery with no compensation, lack of pride in creating an article because you were the proverbial cog in the wheel. All good so far.
    But, Marx’s ideas are now outdated. Why? Because, folks, we got a huge WORLD population problem case nobody’s noticed.People need food, medical supplies, transportation, shelter, education in MASS QUANTITIES. And not too many people (ever been to China?) are willing to just go back to the bucolic peasant farmer format. Which also had its problems. Ever see anybody die of tetanus?
    That’s the problem with quoting Karl Marx. It just ain’t the same world. He himself wants men to return to a basically pre-historic state preceding the ancient Greeks. Is this wrong? Not really. But it’s not going to work in 2011. It’s a little late to turn back the clock.
    What’s ironic is that Soviet Russia, which used Marx as a kind of excuse to practice the form of communism it practiced, was ALL ABOUT the exact concepts Marx objected to: dehumanization of the working class. Cog in a wheel. Do what you’re told. Don’t speak until spoken to. Anonymity is Good For You. Big Brother will do the thinking, you do the shrinking.
    This is NOT what Marx dreamed of. The USSR basically bastardized the thinking of Marx to justify it’s own dehumanization agenda.
    In summation, any form of government or philosophy can be mis-used and manipulated by self-serving puppet masters. Pure communism as Marx suggested it be practiced was indeed a utopia. But in the hands of Stalin and Lenin, there was nothing idyllic about it. Capitalism works the same way. It can be a benefit or a nightmare, depending on how it’s used. I do not think the entire planet will agree to go back to farming potatoes in little villages, and making every item a family uses by hand.
    The answer is progressivism. Not a society totally ruled by the social state, but not one that deprives the individual of all his distinct human traits to morph into little automatons either. BALANCE. It’s over simplifying to claim that capitalism is the demon in the wood pile. That if we rid ourselves of the demon capitalism everything will just naturally sort itself out. We are WAY PAST THAT I believe.

  4. Seattle in Texas

    That’s a great article at the Village Voice and great quote by Marx–about sums it up.

    The whites are not protesting for equality of all, but rather for preservation of their statuses in the racist hierarchy and the maintenance of the system that keeps whites socially elevated above others. It’s not much different as with during the Jim Crow era when the depression hit and whites were out marching and they got white affirmative action…once their needs were satisfied as a group, they went back to business as usual and began capitalizing on their privilege at the cost of others primarily of color, at least as groups, and then went back to supporting lethal racist policies and practices. When the Civil Rights came up, most failed to get out and march–rather they fought against, even though the Civil Rights were in everybody’s best interests and truly challenged the top 1%+ in the most radical forms.

    Yes, capitalism does equal systemic racism and I think that’s precisely where folks who focus on class get tripped up, such as labor historians. 😉 (love you bra, if you see this… 🙂 ) Absolutely. Great article

  5. Joe

    Actually, Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholding capitalist whose wealth came from enslaving African Americans. He put children to work in his famous slave nail factory, had them beaten, and free only the children of the Black woman he enslaved in his bed.

    The point of course in Marx is that the initial wealth of capitalists and much later wealth came heavily off enslaving and killing non-Europeans. No primitive accumulation from people of color, No European wealth and growth, and later industrial capitalism…

  6. cordoba blue

    “The point of course in Marx is that the initial wealth of capitalists and much later wealth came heavily off enslaving and killing non-Europeans.”
    I understand this. My point was that it wasn’t capitalism per se that caused enslavement, but how capitalism was used as an EXCUSE to dominate. How you wield “capitalism” is where the abuse of other humans comes into play. You can use a knife (for example) to chop carrots to feed a family, or to cut off fingers. The knife can be used for good or evil. Your choice. Which will you do? See my point?
    I believe your equation of capitalism and racism is not accurate. Because, if it were, how do you explain the racism that always existed in the Soviet Union? That was not a capitalist system. Your point is “because of capitalism” men were cruel and inhumane. No. If men are determined to be cruel and inhumane, believe me, they’ll find a way..whether through capitalism or socialism. It’s the wielder of the knife that determines if the knife will be used for good or evil, NOT THE KNIFE ITSELF. Do you see the distinction?
    Everyone knows the communism practiced in the Soviet Union was not pure communism. That is, it was not enacted in a manner in which everybody was truly treated The Same. Members of the elite “Party” were given privileges that people in Russia, who refused to join the party, were not given.There was no freedom of religion whatsoever. In fact, to even worship at all in public was frowned upon. “The Party” was supposed to be your God. The STATE was your God. Creativity and individual thinking were discouraged and even dangerous.
    The Party did your thinking for you. To be conflicted about this only brought you misery. You were literally spied upon continually by the KGB if you were suspected of being a non-conformist.Remember this is not a country in which you had civil liberties at all. You couldn’t protest your civil liberties were being violated, because there were no civil liberties.
    In summation, it’s how a system is implemented that determines whether evil or benevolence will be the end result. It’s not the system itself. The man uses the knife, the knife doesn’t use the man. The tail cannot wag the dog.

  7. cordoba blue

    There was no need for southern plantation owners, for example, to use slaves to accumulate capital. This was an evil decision derived from greed and contempt for other human beings. They could easily have used indentured servants. The indentured servant concept, as you know, worked on the basis of the plantation owner paying an immigrant’s pasage to America. The immigrant worked off the price of the passage by working on the plantation. Then his debt was paid off and he was free to leave.
    You can operate any business venture with integrity. You can operate any business venture with deceit and by swindling people. Your choice. Many business owners I know, including my parents, take pride in being honest and in delivering a product or service they are proud to put their name on.
    This was not possible in the Soviet Union. You were not rewarded monetarily for putting extra effort into a service you provided or a product you made. You were paid the same as someone who put together a shoddy product, or was indiffernt to the quality of any service he provided.Thus, incentive was destroyed. And thus, my point, that capitalism and free enterprise are not the enemy of mankind. But rather mankind is the enemy of mankind.
    Capitalism and free enterprise in America have allowed many people, but not African Americans because of racism, to be paid for their motivation. African Americans, as far as I know, want to be part of the free enterprise system, but haven’t been allowed to fully participate. But operating under a different system will not eliminate racism. No, capitalism does not equal racism.
    Are we all confronting the same enemy here? Are we all concluding what the enemy is? Because sometimes, I definitely get the impression the enemy is not racism, but rather the desire to live a middle class life. Or wanting to educate yourself. There are certain commentators on here who think motivation to accumulate enough money to support yourself and your family is “elitist” we should all want to live in sod huts covered with prairie grass or we’re inherently evil. People don’t immigrate by the millions to America because they think supporting your family is “elitist”. They pretty much want all the material possessions that free enterprise and capitalism will allow you to accumulate.

  8. Joe

    Actually, the historical data are quite clear. The early capitalists got their first great wealth by oppressing people of color, whose oppression they racialized and rationalized. Capitalism begins with systematic racial oppression, and elite white men still run both systems of oppression. Tons of data support this view.

  9. cordoba blue

    This week’s Sports Illustrated featured an article on French soccer star Thierry Henry. Henry, who is black, signed with the New York Red Bulls this season after spending over a decade playing in Europe. What shocks Henry most about America? Whereas European fans routinely insult and slur black players, Americans don’t.

    “I’ve been to a lot of arenas to watch NBA games and the Yankees, and I have never heard anyone have a go at a guy because he’s from Puerto Rico or the Dominican or Africa or wherever,” Henry marveled. “I can understand why people in America are kind of shocked [by European racism], because that doesn’t happen in their sports.”

    Europe is far more racist than America. Yet the left is in love with European values. They love Europe’s emphasis on promiscuous sex. They love Europe’s redistributive economic policies. Most of all, they love Europe’s willingness to abandon all principle in supposed gratification of multiculturalism.

    Unfortunately for the left, Europe has proved itself a failure on each of these elements. Europe’s emphasis on free love without commitment has created a childbearing holocaust — Europe is not reproducing at even replacement rates. That failure to reproduce is hastening the decline of Europe’s suicidal economy, which is so top-heavy with aging union workers that it makes Dolly Parton look like Keira Knightley. That failing economic structure means more and more reliance on impoverished immigrants, who are not interested in assimilating into what they perceive as a morally bankrupt culture. And that failure to assimilate destroys precipitating societal fragmentation.

    As Europe collapses, however, the left clings even more tightly to the European model. They cannot allow the utopian socialist dream to die its well-deserved death.

    How, then, do they bolster that dream? By proclaiming that they stand not for economic decay or familial destruction, but for tolerance. They blame capitalism for economic downturns, then state, as President Obama has, that tough times produce racism. In this view, capitalism produces racism.

    It’s false. Capitalism requires individual responsibility and accountability. This seems cold, but it isn’t. It’s profoundly fair and profoundly anti-discriminatory. It creates a colorblind system — the only color that matters is green.

    Socialism, by contrast, requires a justification for why certain individuals should give money to other individuals for no apparent reason. Socialism has no moral justification whatsoever; poor people are not morally superior to rich people, nor are they owed anything by rich people simply because of their lack of success. Charity is not a socialist concept — it is a religious one, an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over property, a sovereignty the left utterly rejects.

    How, then, can socialism justify itself? By pointing to capitalistic “exploitation.” There’s only one problem: TRUE CAPITALISM doesn’t exploit. Capitalism invariably boils down to barter between two willing parties, neither of whom uses force to work with the other. This is getting to be a question of semantics. True communism does not exploit. But the communism practiced by the Soviets was extremely exploitative. Again, it’s the corruption of these concepts by men that creates exploitation, NOT THE CONCEPT ITSELF.

  10. cordoba blue

    It’s possible that socialism and racism can also be linked. Socialism breaks people up into groups and then plays them off against each other naturally creating animosity. It’s also true that capitalism does enable some people to exploit others, as every human built power structure does. I made this point earlier: it’s not the system that corrupts but MEN WHO CORRUPT.
    The point is that capitalism is the most efficient method of distributing resources and therefore the best option available for running a society — even if we do need to have laws to prevent the extremes of possible abuses. I am totally in favor of government intervention so that corporations don’t run amuck.
    This happened as the industrial revolution produced robber barons who created trusts that monopolized various parts of the American economy. However, Anti-Trust acts were passed by congress. Yes, absolutely, Congress is responsible for over-seeing business. If they didn’t greed would run rampant and abuses of power would occur..which they still do even with the government regulations we now have.
    Corporations run by irresponsible individuals are to blame for any number of ills: polluting the environment, creating unsafe working conditions, using pension funds illegally,practicing illegal discrimination in hiring practices, and the list goes on. So yes, government intervention is necessary. If men were angels, we would need no government.

  11. Seattle in Texas

    It would be interesting if the critics put serious thought into the title of this post and had a clue as to what systemic racism is, as opposed to institutional racism, micro-level racist behaviors/racism, and so forth…. The title was not: Does Capitalism = Racism?

    • cordoba blue

      So, by your reasoning capitalism equals Systemic racism, but not institutional racism, micro-level racism and “so forth”? Because for a second there, I was really confused. Thanks for clearing that up.
      Well, by your definition then Systemic Racism did not exist in the Soviet Union right? I beg to differ. The Soviet union discrimated against Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Asians, and Africans, without any apologies whatsoever. So now we’re clear. Capitalism is not the egg from which Systemic Racism hatched. If a government or any governmental system is determined to practice racism, they’ll find a way. It’s been happening for 25,000 years.
      Plus, in China today, a Communist country, there is very strong bias against people from Africa. I know this because I’m an ESL teacher and most of my customers are Asian. I have discussed race relations with them, and they told me that black men are perceived as sexual predators, so Asian women won’t date them. They are also percieved as committing more crimes than the average Chinese person.
      Plus, lighter Asian women, within Asia itself, are considered more desirable partners than darker Asian women. I don’t where this came from. But it contributes to the Asian idea of what constitutes beauty.
      This is related to the culture. Chinese people generally like lighter skin, as a popular Chinese saying goes ‘One white covers up 100 defects.’ If a girl has lighter skin, people often emphasize the girl is rather white, even if she has many imperfections. On the other hand, for a girl with darker skin, people often point out that she has darker skin, even if she is a rather pretty girl. So the girl with lighter skin often has the edge to compete with others when looking for a mate.
      All these factors may contribute to the racism, toward blacks especially, that Chinese people express. If we study racism, I think it’s important to take a world view. Again, I realize it’s easier to study racism from a white frame and exclude it to what has happened, and is happening, in America. However, to imply that racism never existed before white men started to practice it is misleading. To state that capitalism, merely because America lives under a capitalist economic system, contributes to racism, is misleading. We are saying in fact that anything American is inherently racist. But America is filled with people from all over the world, of all different colors, not just white. And all those ethnic groups harbor racist feelings, unfortunately, toward each other.
      Is is really racism we are fighting or are we really saying we just hate America? Which is it? I get the feeling some people here just hate America, period. Everything American. Be it capitalism, the middle class concept, the school system, Congress, the immigration policy, everything!
      Because racism and its practice transcends America’s boundaries, does it not? And not every policy America enacts is racist. There are still more people all over the planet who still believe America is the last great hope. In fact, no other country in the world accepts as many immigrants as America. Why do these people believe this? Maybe they know something that the American-haters on this blog don’t. Can we please stick to fighting racism, and not insist on sulking around claiming the entire United States is despicable?

      • Seattle in Texas

        When are you going to read cordoba blue? Or did you comment here before you read Part II of this post?

        By your reasoning, on one hand it’s natural or inevitable for human societies to place higher values on whiteness or lighter skinned people than darker, but on the other, it is not necessarily the case that capitalism has to be racist. But capitalism is racist…. Who cares if it doesn’t have to be, it is and it’s reaches span far beyond the U.S. to a global level. Why don’t you try to actually read rather than trying to defend your white supremacy all the time? And if capitalism didn’t set in place a color and class hierarchy, it would have a different one in place…what that would be exactly, I really don’t know or can’t imagine at the moment…probably because we have seen capitalism played out already and see what we’ve got now.

        In terms of racism and stereotypes against Black communities in the U.S. that others bring with them when they immigrate, where do you think that comes from? How do you think it got there in the first place?

        Given you know so much about socialism, what are your thoughts on Tito’s Yugoslavia? The Yugoslavia that existed prior to his death? Now here’s a place that managed to get capitalism in place post-Tito’s Yugoslavia, what some call “free capitalism” thanks to Nazis and all they did, and they argue it’s now incredibly racist and a nation of complete despair…. They are taken aback at the racism here in the U.S. too, as well as the xenophobia, and all other hatreds–especially institutional (as they have a very different conception of what the U.S. was like prior to their immigration). They are taken aback at the conception of “freedom” many Americans have in the U.S. and argue Americans are living in a dangerous state of ignorance because 1. They don’t know any different and basically socialized backwards and 2. They are limited in the news coverage they get regarding international issues and what they do get is biased, etc. This can go on and on, but again, thoughts on Tito’s Yugoslavia prior to his death….

        Uh yes, can we please stick to “fighting racism”??? When people do address it and even propose different ideas, you call them ideologists or what have you and then go on to defend the status quo. Then you minimize the realities oppressed communities face, shift the focus of the topics on this site away from the issues, and then assume all people operate out of the same white supremacist framework you do–including the oppressed. So your right winged? Great! Good for you. Your twisted propaganda and denial of the realities of the oppressed people endure today as a result of being directly rooted in not just U.S. history, but global history, advocates for the continuation of racism to carry on at all levels.

        Oh and hey, sometimes I love being the bearer of bad news 😀 (when it’s good news for me and others of course)…it looks like one of your guys isn’t doing so hot. 😀 😀 😀

        Alright, no more entertaining you. Your conversations would be more interesting if you actually did some reading on this stuff and and quit repeating yourself like a broken record…. Bleh. But, did feel it would be courteous of me to leave you with this as I’ve been wondering if this is you in this vid? (between 1:05-1:17?) If so, you’ve got some fans man…in Texas too!

        • Seattle in Texas

          sorry, I forgot to attach the link to the my closing paragraph 🙁 Here it is: . Now no more links for you.

          And I realize discussions on socialism, etc., and on Tito are controversial…but I’ll stay with the learning I’ve received from folks who actually lived in a socialist society–both the good and criticisms they have, on both socialism and capitalism…it’s much different than your presentations from the right’s perspective…and they argue it was the right that did the very things you suggest socialists do, such as, pitting groups against each other and promoting and fueling tensions against each, and so on….

          There, now done.

  12. lmfort

    I really appreciate this article. Capitalism in and of itself is not and does not have to impose racism. I get that. But unfortunately, you cannot erase America’s racist history. Black Americans are very suspicious of white Americans and for good reasons. The reason why, I believe, African Americans are not as active with OWS is because our fight within America has never been with Wall Street. It has ALWAYS been with fellow white Americans. You can claim that whites who own the means of production are to blame for racial inequalities because of the mistreatment, exploitation and abuse that many minorities suffer through, which has been accepted in the name of capitalism. But racism has also been supported to promote white pride and privilege in many ways other than financially. Like many of the research has shown about contemporary white thought on racism today, whites are very delusional about racism. So even if black Americans fought alongside with whites, those exact same individuals deny the issues that minorities have to face. Sleeping with the enemy.

  13. MindOverMatter

    Does Capitalism = Systemic Racism? Malcolm X answers the question plain and simple: “Capitalism, in its colonial question, breds racism” (Allen, Black Awakening in Capitalist America, 1969). When capitalism rearranges a people’s way of life and impose a new system of values foreign the native population which makes them inferior to the occupying nation…that is racism. This racism is systemic in regards to methods in which the occupying nation imposes its “superiority” over the native population usually in the form of violence. What resulted was the capital accumulation by whites off of the labor of “Third World” bodies.

    I would just like to say any form of racism plays the hand of capitalism in the game of world domination of people of color. Frantz Fanon argues racism is not a natural occurence, but a very element of culture. White culture has historically shown its heavily invested in racism whether it is the white male elites who own the means of productions or the white petty bourgeosie who police the elites property for a piece of white privilege. Capitialism is a European invention in which racism props up in order for whites to rationalize and justify the subjugation of people of color.

    We can get into Frantz Fanon if a candid discussion on white culture and racism is to be had. We can get into Robert Allen’s book I cited Malcolm X from to illustrate my case clearly in regards to corporate imperialism feeds off the labor of people of color. As we see with the OWS, whites are beginning to feel some inkling of what means to be Black in America. They now feel the bite of banks taking away from them…corporate imperialism is nothing new to Blacks. In fact, we have been complaining about this since we were able to legal hold property. But like it has been note in this discussion, white privelege is not being “as recognized” by the white elite so whites feel they must make their presence known.


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