A Contribution to the Debate on Systemic Racism
By Oladipupo Jimoh, International Liaison Personnel, Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard [RCIT Nigeria], 23rd June, 2020, https://revolutionarysocialistvanguard.wordpress.com
We live in exceptional times, the whole world is taken by surprise with strong torrents of anti-racist campaigns triggered by the gruesome murder of George Floyd by police on 25th May, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The anti-racist movement that ensued after his killing is not only wide-spread but also has deepening effects. For the first time in history the statues and monuments that revere and represent slavery, white supremacy, colonialism are being pulled down. This protests has given fresh winds to the sails of a student campaign to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes in London after the toppling of King Leopold’s statue. Even the statue of Christopher Columbus the so-called discoverer of the new world was equally removed.
Beyond the removal of statues and defacement of monuments all around the world, there are calls in the US, for more concrete reforms such as defunding the police; the outright disbanding of the police in places like Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed. Some militants have equally set up an autonomous zone. More so, there are new calls for reparations and compensation for families descending from black slaves. Apart from these, one needs to look at the heterogeneity of the participants in this movement when it comes to race. The protests not only in America but globally is dominated by people from almost all races chanting “black lives matter” and other anti-racist slogans in uniformity.
However one of the most watershed features of this movement is the awakening to the reality of systemic/structural/institutional racism. For the first time, there’s a global debate, even in bourgeois media that key world governments are systemically racist. It is a telling fact on the consciousness of the masses and further confirms that we are in a historic revolutionary period.
Unsurprisingly, the Democratic Party in the US recognizes such a movement as an opportunity to allay the sentiments of the people in their favour and use the movement as an avenue to launch darts at their political opponents the Republican Party whose flagbearer, Donald Trump, is doing very little to help matters. Joe Biden and other prominent figures of the Democratic Party have embarked on a fire-brigade approach to suddenly dance to the tune of the music, some example of which include ordering the removal of the frames of confederate governors in Capitol Hill. At some point Nancy Pelosi and other politicians in the Democratic Party knelt in front of the cameras. Joe Biden, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party gave a speech at the burial memorial of George Floyd alongside several other politicians from the Party. Other members of the party like Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York State has yielded to pressure and promised to cut police funding in his state. Same as the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Gracetti. Joe Biden has also promised to look into calls for reparations for decendants of black slaves if he is elected come November.
Granted leading figures in the Democratic Party like Biden, Pelosi and even Bernie Sanders may have admitted that there’s systemic racism in America due to pressure but this admittance has a double faced nature since they deny the economic roots of the question by adamantly refusing to subscribe to the demand to defund the police. However to fully appreciate the hypocrisy of this bourgeois party one has to understand well what racism is and why racism cannot exist unless it is systemic.
Racism like all other vices of the capitalist system has its roots in the economy.
Understandably, it must be for economic interests which consequently means some form of state institution is required to execute and protect this interest by implementing racist attacks. By now it should be common knowledge that the most palpable justification for trans-Atlantic slavery which on its own was a multi-million dollar industry was racism. Without the conditions of chattel slavery it would be impossible for white enterprises to amass such humongous wealth exploiting black labour.
Apart from instances from the history of Black slavery, one needs only to consider the fact that in the US where blacks make only 13% of the population 24% of those blacks are in prison. To give another example a well-known study published by the The Sentencing Project some years ago: “Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males and 2.5 times more likely than Hispanic males. If current trends continue, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino males—compared to one of every seventeen white males. Racial and ethnic disparities among women are less substantial than among men but remain prevalent.”
Thus, to put it simply, racism is the use of state institutions and apparatus including the media to oppress a particular race/ethnic group for the economic domination of that state. As the revolutionary historian Yossi Schwartz puts it:
“……If the person is discriminating against the other, and this could take the form of ignoring, excluding, avoiding, ridiculing, threatening or even violence, it is not necessarily racism. Racial prejudice and discrimination become racism only at the point at which one racial group has more social, economic, political power than another racial group and it uses that power for its interests against the other group in a systemic manner. To do that, the more powerful group has to be in a position to incorporate their prejudices into society’s laws, institutions, policies and norms, which they can then use to discriminate against the oppressed group. The power of the ruling class and of individuals of this class to discriminate is based not on language but on their position in the process of production and in many cases – as the result of this – their control of the state apparatus. Those who own the means of production are the ruling class. They exploit and oppress other classes and when the oppressed are of another ethnicity – this is racism.” 
Anyone who disagrees with this definition or understanding of racism clings to an idealist perspective on the subject. More so, to disagree with the material roots of racism in the economy is to be prone to errors which makes such a person fight sometimes the oppressed minorities and at other times the racist themselves, achieving no overall progress in the end.
Having proven that racism is inextricably tied to the system, we can only get a complete analyses of racism not when we view it from a nation state, like the US but from a global perspective. It becomes impossible to finalize the argument that systemic racism exists in the US, without pointing to US foreign policy; without pointing to the imperialist relations of the US with nations of the global south. Western imperialism from the time of slavery through the era of colonialism to the present period has robbed the nations of the global south which are prevalently coloured peoples through undermining their internal development and democracy so that the multinational corporations can reap tremendous profit from these nations. The major justification for this was the discriminatory ideology which is shared by all members of the imperialist government but which we, every now and then, get a glimpse of in the utterances of Fascist like Hitler and contemporary far right government officials like Trump and Johnson.
At this point, it becomes crystal clear that promise of Joe Biden to look into ways to give reparations to decendants of Black slaves is high-pitched hypocrisy. To talk about reparations without taking into account the damage that centuries of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism has brought on the African continent is purely electioneering theatrics. Bringing US foreign policy into the equation is the only route possible to prove that the US government and its institutions have always thrived on racism. We can already see support for chauvinist campaign of Western governments against China led by the Trump administration.
Many liberals, leftists who orientate towards the Democratic Party fail or refuse to mention the oppression and robbery of the nations of the global south most especially African nations, the failure to recognize this corner stone in not just institutional racism in the US but around the world makes the whole argument of this so-called activists a campaign rhetoric for the Democratic Party. Now that all and sundry can agree that serious changes are exigent in relation to coloured communities it is only logical to extend such changes to those continents from which they hail.
Since racism originates from and is bolstered by imperialist cum capitalist hegemony it becomes impossible to destroy racism without resetting the global economic imbalance which has left sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Latin America under the choking weight of poverty, wars and death. Only when movements as these are harnessed by genuine revolutionaries and change seekers, the world over, to push the following demands and slogans can systemic racism be defeated;
*Foreign Exploiters – Out of Africa! Expel All Great Powers (US, China, EU, etc.) from Africa!
*The Wealth to Those Who Create It! Economic Freedom Now! Nationalization of All Big Corporations and Banks under Control of the Workers! Nationalization of Large Estates so that the Poor Peasants Can Decide How Best to Use These Lands! Down with all forms of pollution of the environment and the people by imperialist corporations! Protect the health and the future of the people!
*Down with the Capitalist Dictatorships and Corrupt Pseudo-Democracies! For a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly!
*For a Government of the Workers and Poor Peasants! For a Socialist Revolution!
*For Pan-African Unity! For the United Socialist States of Africa!
*No future without socialism! No socialism without a revolution! No revolution without a revolutionary party!
Long Live the Revolution!
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