Inequality is Reinforced and Masked by RACISM and SEXISM
by Bill Sacks, 8-13-2021
A frontpage article in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/07/22/noose-construction-industry-racism/) tells of recent incidents at many US worksites in which nooses have been left in plain sight by unidentified persons (read cowardly racists). The intent of fomenting fear is derived from the ugly history of US lynchings, particularly in the South after the Civil War during Reconstruction and well into the 20th century.
The article calls lynching an “implement of terror and murder used primarily against Black people.” This description is important both for what it says and what it only implies – though the implication emerges only if one is prepared to read between the lines and thinks about the word “primarily.” The fact is that out of more than 4,000 lynchings, roughly a quarter of the victims were white working-class persons. In many (or most) cases their “crime” was associating with fellow workers who happened to be black. Thus, whether the persons lynched were black or white or any other ethnicity, the motivation was always inspired by the ideology of racism, and the purpose was always to maintain and employ the practice of racism as a means of keeping black and white working-class persons apart and convinced that each was the enemy of the other.
This article argues that ruling class exploitation is the foundation of capitalism, affecting black and white workers, although to lesser degrees, and gives examples from literary sources.
“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).
The uprisings over the horrendous oppression and killing of black people in the US have united people in ways we have rarely seen. Most protests in the past have been comprised of a single demographic group: mostly white in anti-war marches, Latin in immigration demonstrations, and black in anti-racist protests. The multi-racial and multi-ethnic participation in the rebellions stirred by police violence, disproportionate Covid19 deaths in black and native families, and sacrificial back-to-work decisions creates an enormous potential for working class solidarity and revolutionary change.
“The wealth of this country should be equally distributed … if one man through shrewdness should then amass more wealth than his neighbor, his surplus should be taken away from him. Every man should carry arms and have the right of self-defense. Shops and means of transit should be free. There would be no need of elections, police or standing army… Every man should bring his products to an immense clearinghouse in each city or town, and every family to receive an equal portion.” Lucy Parsons, 1891. The life of Lucy Parsons holds many lessons for the working class and students today, especially since we recently witnessed a polarizing election, increased xenophobia, and racist, anti-Semitic murders. Lucy gained fame as the widow of Albert Parsons, the labor leader and anarchist whom the city of Chicago executed for his role in the fight for the 8 hour day in 1887. Known as the Haymarket Massacre, cops threw a bomb into the crowd that killed 7 policemen and blamed the deaths on the anarchist and socialist leaders, including Albert. May Day, the international workers’ day, commemorates this event. Lucy spent her life celebrating her husband’s and her political ideas. Today she is honored as a revolutionary leader in her own right. Continue reading “Lucy Parsons, Working Class Anarchist”
This is a slightly revised version of an article with this title that appeared in Science & Society 82, 2 (April 2018): 269-75.
Intersectionality, a way of thinking about the nature and causes of social inequality, proposes that the effects of multiple forms of oppression are cumulative and, as the term suggests, interwoven. Not only do racism, sexism, homophobia, disablism, religious bigotry, and so-called “classism” wreak pain and harm in the lives of many people, but any two or more of these types of oppression can be experienced simultaneously in the lives of given individuals or demographic sectors. According to the intersectional model, it is only by taking into account the complex experiences of many people who are pressed to the margins of mainstream society that matters of social justice can be effectively addressed. In order to assess the usefulness of intersectionality as an analytical model and practical program, however—and, indeed, to decide whether or not it can actually be said to be a “theory,” as a number of its proponents insist—we need to ask not only what kinds of questions it encourages and remedies, but also what kinds of questions it discourages and what kinds of remedies it forecloses. Continue reading “Intersectionality: A Marxist Critique”