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Capitalism: Not For Black People

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Poet, and activist Audrey Lorde.

I hear all the time Black immigrants from the Caribbean boasting about their love for capitalism, and wishfully thinking that by that declaration alone they somehow are now "good, assimilated Americans." And just like pseudo-patriotism that manifests itself anytime someone criticizes the American socio-economic and political system gone wrong, this "wanting to belong" is both stupid and self-serving. The embrace of American capitalism by Black people exposes an acute lack of understanding and knowledge of the Capitalist System itself and accepting as gospel truth the myths associated with it.

These series of articles explores what capitalism is, how it works and how it keeps, even today, millions of Black and Brown people in a state of perpetual poverty nothing more than neo-slaves. The history and modus operandi of the capitalist system was not designed to benefit Black people period. All you have to do is pick any state in the union and then see who owns and controls everything and the picture becomes crystal clear: Black people occupy the lowest rungs of the socio-economic systems, are underpaid and overworked employees struggling to make ends meet.

So exactly what is capitalism? For starters many view it as just an economic system.

However, I contend that capitalism is far more than an economic system. Capitalism is a ruling class ideology that is institutionalized for the practice and purpose of governing and controlling the relationships between groups of people and between individuals (the capitalists). Contrary to popular opinion promoted by capitalist apologists and defenders, capitalism's focus is not merely to promote a utopian-type "free market" system. In the capitalist system ALL relationships are specifically and purposely structured based on a rigid and set hierarchy designed to create situations for the sustained, and permanent exploitation of those made to be "underprivileged", "superfluous", or chained to the production chain and its cycles.

Thus, one of capitalism's mechanisms used in enforcing, controlling, and structuring such skewed and biased power relations and dynamics is its emphasis on the division of labor that does not adhere to the principles of democracy. In fact, exploitative capitalist relations exist and operate OUTSIDE of democratic norms and principles, and so do not benefit workers as a group, especially Black workers. It is this division of labor that serves as the centerpiece, the very core, of the system, with those selling their labor (power) Black, poor whites and Brown peoples, are automatically placed at the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy. The relationship between capitalist and Black worker is thus one of owner and controller vs. wage laborer expendable, disposable whose very life and existence is that the mercy of his/her boss.

It is this strict hierarchy that disenfranchises Black workers in general, who are for the most part landless through deliberate state-led and orchestrated deprivation. This then drives a deliberate process of alienation that can take several grotesque and unjust forms, many deformed, from land, labor, and culture relations, all set in motion by the capitalist dynamics of penniless and poverty-stricken Black worker and rich, parasitic owners. All of this results in maintaining and sustaining Black poverty. For capitalism to exist it has to have a ready and exploitable "army of labor" that it can pay subsistence, neo-slave wages to, and whose members are replaceable enmasse at the drop of a hat.

History tells us that capitalism was birthed as a bona fide system during the colonial period, as white merchants and other investors in Europe gained prominence in regional and international commerce as the result of slave labor, especially in the Americas. This phenomenon gave a blank check to this new class to shape an economic system that distinguished itself from that of the dominant, but waning, economic system of the time, mercantilism.

With the mercantilist system, the monarchs of the day through their preferred agents directed commerce through companies chartered to sanction or regulate commercial activities in the colonies insofar as trading routes and taxation, and even waging war was concerned. For example, companies such as the British West India Company was set up by the British monarch to direct commerce between its colonies in the Americas in relation to the crown and to ensure that trade was strictly maintained between the United Kingdom and its colonies. From time to time trade disputes ended up in so-called "Balance of Power" wars between monarchies where colonies repeatedly changed hands. Such was the structure of the relationship between merchants and the crown in the prevailing economic system.

A BRIEF HISTORIC NOTE: Whereas Europe passed through a number of socio-economic systems enroute to capitalism barbarism, slavery, mercantilism, feudalism American capitalism jumped (Marxists would say "leapt forward") from slavery to capitalism, bypassing feudalism. Thus, taking far shorter a time to realize the system than Europe.

These are the basic facts that underpin capitalism as an economic system. Slave labor, placing Black people on the poverty rung of the capitalist ladder, and making sure that they will forever be renters, workers and disposable commodities, is the foundation of white capitalism. As Marcus Mosiah Garvey said "in a world of wolves one must go armed," knowledge of capitalism and how it works will allow Black people to "make the system work for them" somewhat.

There is, indeed, an historical relationship, and one that is irreversibly adverse no matter where in the capitalist river Black people place their feet. Fact is, that river runs in only one direction: It is one of discord, poverty and disunity for a group of people who do not benefit from capitalism's brand of development. Indeed, capitalism's record is one of enslaving, disenfranchising, and keeping in poverty millions of Black people throughout the world. In short, capitalism is the tool of American and European colonial masters. Yes, Black people in 2019 are living in the master's house; we will never dismantle the master's house.

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)

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