“White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo ranks as the number one best selling book on many publisher lists and has a months long waiting list at public libraries. It clearly has an important message to garner such attention. What does this message mean for a multiracial fight against racism as we’ve witnessed in the protests around the world? What kinds of strategies does it encourage to overcome the racist nature of capitalism?
Dr. DiAngelo is a white woman educator who helps companies and organizations diversify their workforces and develop more harmony between workers of different “racial” and ethnic backgrounds. She creates and delivers an antiracist curriculum to the employees, mostly white, in order to expose white people’s racism and, as she states, to encourage them to recognize their privilege so they can stop oppressing black people. (The book focuses on black and white people).
by Bill Sacks, retired physician, REVISED June 27, 2020
Black authors have written many nonfiction books on racism over the last decade. Mark Whitaker listed and commented on several in the Washington Post’s Outlook section (June 14, 2020). He pointed out that Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015) opened up a market for such books, and that Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (2010) was an earlier bestseller that had a huge impact on public thought about incarceration.
The various authors’ analyses of racism differ. Coates claims that there is a caste system, in which all white people oppress all black people, regardless of class. The category of caste draws strict lines between members of different castes, in this case between all white people and all black people. Caste is proposed by Coates as the significant social categorization, as opposed to class, which is defined in relation to exploitation and consists of exploiters and exploited. However, it is class that defines the main interests of each group, not caste. Black exploiters have little in common with black victims of exploitation, who in turn have more in common with white victims of exploitation. Similarly, white victims of exploitation have little in common with white exploiters. The interests of exploiters and exploited are opposed to one another.
Racist Police Terror: Poisonous Tip of the Class War
By Nayvin Gordon, MD, 6-24-2020
While police violence and other forms of oppression affect Black workers disproportionately, White workers also suffer from racism, including incarceration and police murders (i.e. greater proportions of black working-class people are killed by cops or incarcerated, while greater numbers of white working-class people are killed by cops and incarcerated).
by Wally Linder, retired railway worker and organizer, June 22, 2020
The financial foundation of U.S. capitalism is racism. It is the source of some $500 BILLIONS (half trillion dollars) in super-profits. That is the difference between the household income of white and Black families and the basis for the oppression of Black workers in all spheres of life.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2019 figures), there were 17 million Black households in the U.S. The median income of those families was $41,361. The median household income of white families was $70,642. If the bosses paid the Black families the same as white families, an additional $29,281 each, they would have to fork over an additional $497 BILLION, 17 million families multiplied by $29,281 each. This would reduce the bosses’ profits by HALF TRILLION dollars.
Not evil like Trump – wholly malevolent, unapologytically sexist, racist and without compassion – but evil as a supporter of a system that impoverishes and degrades most of the people of the world. But there will be no candidate running for office in the USA, be they a left wing Democrat or a right wing Republican, who does not support capitalism and its need to preserve profits over human welfare.
Racism is a public health issue. Police violence is a public health issue. Social justice is a public health issue. Let us add a qualifying noun such as “structural” or “systematic” to strengthen our “response” to anti-Blackness and racism. Black lives matter.
With some wordsmithing, some variation of these lines basically constitutes large chunks of the “statements” and “responses” issued by most, if not all, institutions that constitute the public health industrial complex: public health academia; public health associations; public health publishing industry.
Words. Empty words and self-aggrandizing performative advocacy are all that they are. Words matter. What matters more, much more, is the actions that follow them.
SEE MORE: Recommendations to Our Schools and Colleagues:
Multitudes of workers are protesting racism in every American city and all over the world. The crowds are multiracial, mostly young, disciplined and militant. Nothing like it has been seen in over 50 years – it is indeed awe-inspiring.
As the movement continues for its second week since the police murder of George Floyd, it is settling on demands ranging from abolishing to defunding the police. So powerful is the movement that many politicians are even promising to take action on these fronts.
We cannot feel anything but horror upon seeing the latest video of police executing a black man. We cannot help but feel gratification at watching the guilty precinct burn. But we also must reflect that many decades of tearing down symbols of racist oppression have not caused racism to end or even abate. What else must be done?
Near 60,000 more dead by August, the latest model says. But that’s okay, the President says, the governors say. We know who will have to pay.
From the beginning of the North American project, there has been a method –divide those who labor by layers of misery, levels of payment, locales of living. And make those separations obvious, by color, by gender, by language. And teach them to hate and fear one another. As capitalism grew in sophistication, the methods of separation did also, from enslavement to eugenics to nationalism and identity politics. Some think it is being mitigated by time and education, by compassion and movements. But let this pandemic show that little has changed.
The corona crisis, on top of so many others, shows how lethal capitalism is. Poverty and racism are the pre-existing conditions that inflate the rates of death and disability. For billions of people around the world, this disaster continues the misery at the hands of the 1%. It hopefully wakes up other people to the inequalities, negligence, and outright murder of global capitalism.
How has public health responded to such inequities and pandemics? What can we learn from previous infectious disease outbreaks caused by smallpox, TB, and cholera? When public health is good, it is very good, but when it is bad, many people die. When public health gets ugly, it destroys our lives and future security and aspirations.
Public health today operationalizes the prevailing political ideology: personal responsibility, the philosophy that individuals make decisions about what to eat, where to live, how to work, or whether to graduate, and then pay the consequences. Public health has blamed the individual for poor health habits and focused on educating people rather than dealing with systemic issues. Even now, when many talk about social determinants of disease, such as housing, racist police violence, immigration policy, and employment, actual interventions still focus on individual behavior.
This article identifies some of the qualities of successful and failed attempts to control epidemics with examples from selected countries since the late 19th Century.