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Capitalism and White Supremacy

Capitalism and White Supremacy. I don’t know if that’s quite the right title. I really wanted to have the Environment in there too. Anyway, these are the topics I’ve been wrestling with lately and are the general theme of this essay.

Introduction

The quarantine of 2020 has forced each of us to live and do things differently. As a librarian at a community college, I have been very fortunate to both retain my employment and to work from home. Although it has been difficult from time to time, it is truly a luxury to have personal safety and a steady income. I know this isn’t the case for many millions of Americans. 

Throughout my life, I’ve always been a learner. It’s one of the reasons I went into academic librarianship. Not only do I get to learn from the students on a regular basis, I also get to be surrounded by the written word. And during this quarantine, I’ve definitely upped my reading. In fact, I seem to have accidentally created a curriculum for myself that focuses on capitalism, white supremacy, and the environment. 

Book Covers

This isn’t a catch-all, be-all type of essay. Just opening up with a few of my thoughts and then sharing my curriculum with you. It’s at the bottom if you want to skip ahead.

Capitalism and Racism

These topics are so intertwined together. Moving forward, it will be difficult for me to look at each individually without considering the whole. And that’s a good thing! Researching and experiencing these more deeply has been pushing me to reflect on what is most important, and therefore where I might place my attention and resources. In some ways, the curriculum has radicalized me more than I expected. 

Historically, I have rarely identified myself as “a liberal.” I’ve always considered myself a bit further to the left than the liberal. In fact, I’ve struggled to vote for a Democrat for president for decades (and 2020 is going to be especially difficult). In the end, they seem to always let me down and don’t seem to move society forward.

So, I’m probably somewhere on the anarchist, socialist, communist spectrum. It does beg the question whether someone like me should even vote in a presidential election. I don’t know the answer. If you have ideas, please do comment. This accidental course of study has definitely forced me question our current political structures as it relates to capitalism, white supremacy, and the environment. Do current politics in United States have the capacity to address the damages of capitalism, white supremacy, and environmental degradation?

Capitalism in the United States is detrimental for all workers, but especially for BIPOC communities, and the environment. It forces the lowest possible wages and the weakest environmental considerations in order to feed the shareholder. The costs of capitalism are both extremely obvious and also deeply hidden. The Capitalist State upholds this structure and the mentality permeates all aspects of society. From the church to the oil company. I’m not a great scholar, but this is the sense of what I have gleaned from my recent readings. It’s also been quite interesting during this COVID Crisis to see capitalists embrace more socialist approaches (such as the large bailouts of corporations and the IRS payment to workers). 

White supremacy is propped up by capitalism.

Perpetual growth based on theft and slavery is the name of the game. From the first arrival to North America by Europeans that forced the death and/or migration of native peoples, to the theft of the southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California), to chattel slavery, to post-reconstruction lynchings and Jim Crow laws well into the 20th century, to redlining to prevent home ownership of black people, to the continued violence and murder of black Americans in the 21st century, to reliance on fossil fuels. My god, I’m only 52-years old and legalized segregation in schools and colleges existed within my lifetime! And three of the greatest Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s were all assassinated (Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X).

And white supremacy isn’t only about Black Americans. Immigration of cheap labor from “non-white” countries such as Italy and Ireland in the early 20th century, all the way to present-day immigrants from Central America and Mexico. And then we have anti-semitism throughout history that continues to this day. They all suffered at the hands of the Capitalist State. Is it surprising that some of the most polluted locations in North America are within non-white communities? Is it surprising that incomes, better health, and home ownership are all highest for white Americans? 

I’m feeling this is enough of an introduction to the topic at hand. I did want to dig deeper into the environment, since this is intricately tied with capitalism and racism, but I’ll leave that to be explored on your own through the books, podcasts, videos, and articles listed below.

A Curriculum

Books

Clark, John P. Between Earth and Empire: From the Necrocene to the Beloved Community (2019)

Eberhardt, Jennifer L. Phd. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do (2019)

Lowy, Michael. Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe (2015)

Podcasts

Note: The title of each episode is first, followed by the guest on the show, and then the name of the podcast. You can search online or in your favorite podcatcher.

Community-Led Practices To Build the Worlds We Need, Sasha Costanza-Chock | Data & Society

COVID-19 in Black America, Ibram X. Kendi | This is Hell!

Covid19 and the Crisis Capitalism Creates in Normal Times, Silvia Federici | Latin Waves Media

Food Workers and the Virus, Raj Patel | Belabored

I Am Not Your Negro: Racism in the Us, Richard Johnson | Factual America Podcast

The Nature of Democracy in the Times of Crisis, A. C. Grayling | KPFA – Letters and Politics

Technological Change and Social Protests, Kerstin Enflo | A Correction Podcast

We Have To Begin With Emancipation, Asad Haider | Millennials Are Killing Capitalism

Any episode | The Benjamin Dixon Show

Videos

COVID-19, global climate policy and carbon markets

Life-Making, Capitalism and the Pandemic: Feminist Ideas about Women’s Work

Articles

hooks, bell. An Aesthetic of Blackness: Strange and Oppositional | Center for Black Music Research

Kalm, Sara. Citizenship Capital | Journal of Global Society

Kendi, Ibram X. We’re Still Living and Dying in the Slaveholders’ Republic | The Atlantic

Martinez, Elizabeth ‘Betita’. What Is White Supremacy? | Catalyzing Liberation Toolkit

McGee, Julius Alexander and Patrick Trent Greiner. How Long Can Neoliberalism Withstand Climate Crisis? | Monthly Review

Saunt, Claudio. The world’s first mass deportation took place on American soil | Aeon Essays

St. John, Victor J. Placial Justice: Restoring Rehabilitation and Correctional Legitimacy Through Architectural Design | SAGE

Tittle, Chris. Now Is the Time to Take Radical Steps Toward Housing Equity | Yes Magazine

Yates, Michael D. It’s Still Slavery by Another Name | Monthly Review

Wijnberg, Rob. Why climate change is a pandemic in slow motion (and what that can teach us) | The Correspondent

Other 

White Supremacy and the United States James Baldwin

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