How Racism Sustains Wealth Inequality: We Must Fight Racism in Order to Fight Poverty
Origins of racism
Race is a political construction that was created in order to justify the enslavement of Africans and has been used to justify colonialism and genocide, among other atrocities. It has no scientific basis. While physical differences do exist in humans depending on where you are from, they all exist on a spectrum and cannot be strictly categorized. Moreover, these differences are surface level and have no impact on the character traits of any person or group.
Religion and pseudoscience were used during chattel slavery and colonialism to legitimize racism. It was said that “Negros” had inferior brains and slavery was their rightful place. The displacement and attempted genocide of Indigenous peoples was justified by Manifest Destiny, the belief that it was the God-given right of white Americans to dominate North America. It was also a common religious belief that Black and Indigenous people did not have souls.
In 1866, Frederick Farrar lectured on the “Aptitude of Races” which he divided into 3 groups:
Savage (All Africans, Indigenous people, people of color with the exception of the Chinese); Semi-Civilized (e.g. Chinese – who were once civilized but now their society was in arrested development); Civilized (European, Aryan and Semitic peoples).
In 1864 W. Winwood Reade published his book called Savage Africa. He ended the book with a prediction on the future of the Black race: “England and France will rule Africa. Africans will dig the ditches and water the deserts. It will be hard work and the Africans will probably become extinct. We must learn to look at the result with composure. It illustrates the beneficent law of nature, that the weak must be devoured by the strong.”
Divide and conquer
One of the most important ways racism serves the ruling class is to keep poor white people from revolting against them. White people in positions of power continue to accumulate wealth from exploiting poor people of all races, and simultaneously blame People of Color for the resulting conditions. They say immigrants are taking all the jobs, or Black mothers (“welfare queens”) are taking advantage of government assistance, when in reality, the greed of the wealthy is the only reason we all do not have enough to eat.
Historically, racial divides were used to prevent white indentured servants and Black slaves from coming together to rebel against plantation owners. Abolitionist and ex-slave Frederick Douglass put it this way: "The slaveholders…by encouraging the enmity of the poor, laboring white man against the Blacks, succeeded in making the said white man almost as much a slave as the Black himself…Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers." Or, as Douglass also said, "They divided both to conquer each."
We the people
We must come to understand that our only enemy is the ruling class, and we must fight for a world where everyone has what they need to live a good life. To do this, we must dismantle racism.
“And I, for one, will join in with anyone - I don’t care what color you are - as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”
~ Malcom X
“There is a higher law than the law of government. That’s the law of conscience.”
~ Stokely Carmichael
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
~ Fannie Lou Hamer
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