Question concerning race and class

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Thu Jul 2 13:58:39 PDT 1998


Here are some more responses to your responses. I have to get going so this will not be a thorough job.

>>> Wojtek Sokolowski writes

I do recognize that racism exists in the US and it was not my intention to deny it. But in my posting I asked a very simple question, what are we supposed to DO to end it? I did NOT ask what are we supposed to THINK, or what ATTITUDE are we supposed to express to end it. I do not belive that thinking or talking equals doing. If it did, we would not have the First Amendment.>>

Chas.: In this case , the "doing" of racism or not racism involves a good amount of "think-actions" and "attitude- expression actions". or thinking and talking actions. For example political action is campaigning which is a lot of talking, or voting which is a kind of speaking. See what I mean ? The do/think distinction is not that key here. Talking to other whites about the problem of racism is a lot of what you "do" to end racism

Wojtek: I am well aware of the fact that many whites have quite negative attitudes toward blacks simply because of their skin color. I also know that many blacks have negative attitudes toward whites.

Chas: These are not the same. It is not symetrical , as I said to you once before. Even white workers are part of the dominant group, although they are not the main originators and perpetuators of racist advantage and privileges of whites. Racism = prejudice + membership in the dominant group. Black people's prejudice is qualitative different than white people's prejudice from a standpoint of political (power) analysis. In a general sense, Black people's prejudice is a reaction to the initial prejudice of white people


I may also add that similar prejudices exist against virtually any group, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Eastern or Southern Europeans, Irish, you name it.

Chas: Right. There is sort of a hierarchy of races and ethnic groups. Didn't we have a thread on this ? Prejudice against European immgrants contrasted with against Blacks and other specially oppressed national and racial groups ? It is not all just the same prejudice.

Wojtek: I also think that the world would be a better place if people did not have such attitudes. However, I think that we have more urgent problems to solve than changing people's attitudes - like eliminating gross economic inequality.

Chas. Beyond the economic inequality of capitalism there is another layer of economic, social, political cultural and all around inequality between Blacks and whites. Aren't you a sociologist ? This is proven so tough by sociological stats. It is persistent. definite a social fact.

Wojtek: To be frank, I do not mind people cracking Polack- or Kike- jokes (although I still think cracking ethnic jokes is rude) as long as I can get employment at places like Johns Hopkins. In the same vein, sexist attitudes toward women are certainly deplorable, but instead of changing the locker-room manners, a much more fruitful strategy is to enforce the equal pay for equal work rule, or equal employment opportunity. Ditto for racist attitudes.

Chas: No. BOTH AND SIMULTANEOUSLY. The attitude for the masses of white workers is key for winning the economic equality.

Wojtek As I see it, a political struggle must focus on a goal that is unambiguous, attainable and has a matrial effect. Focusing on psychological phenomena, such as racist attitudes, appears to me like a terrible waste of energy, almost like substituting the ideal for the real - which is how religion copes with miserable living conditions.

Chas: To win material goals such as shorter work week with no cut in pay, or more trade union rights, or national health care, we have to change attitudes and psychologies , no ? It is called political education or persuasion. Similarly, racism is materially constituted as an all around lesser quantity and quality of life, material life, for Black people Brown people, Red people, Yellow people. Ending racism is not just changing an attitude. It is changing an attitude that will result in a better MATERIAL life for the victims of racism

Wojtek: I may also add that crying 'racism' is a convenient diversion that blames individual attitudes for the structural failures of the capitalist system. Claims that Blacks are poor because all or most Whites are racists only helps to reinforce the myth that if only Whites changed their attitude, the market system would be just fine. That is bullshit, plain and simple. Blacks are poor not because Whites hate them, but because the market system by its very nature FAILS to 'lift all the boats' - even the Chicago-school types talk about market failures.

Chas: Racism and capitalism are one thing. Racism is not hate and capitalism material existence. Racism is a super oppressed material existence on top of the oppressed material existence of all workers in capitalism. Also, the ending of racist inequality is critical for uniting the whole working class to end overall capitalism , the market system. CHARGING (not crying) racism is far from a diversion from the job of ending capitalism. It is the number one task for ending capitalism .Workers of all countries and colors unite, i.e. end the prejudice of the dominating nationalities and races of workers as the number one task for ending capitalism.

Wojtek Therefore, the poor (Black or otherwise) are poor not because other people hate them, but because the system by which economic decisions are made by design ignores people with little or no resources.

Chas. They are poor for the same capitalist system reason that whites are poor. They are POORER than poor whites because of racism, which is expressed as prejudice and hatred.


In other words, the profit-seeking market system will fail to help the poor of any skin color, regardless of the attitudes of the rich toward them.

Thus, a racist government bueraucrat administering a program designed to mend the "market failures" does more to help the poor Blacks than a pc-liberal who sends charitable donations to fight the Klan, but supports the free market system.

Chas: Maybe. They are both part of racist capitalism.

Wojtek To summarize, my main problem with cryining 'racism' is the culruralist and psychological connotations it evokes. If racism means only economic exploitation then fighting racism is synnymous with fighting capitalism.

Chas. Wrong. It is a critical specific task for ending capitalism. Also, Black workers are specially oppressed and exploited, so there must be a special specific effort to end those super oppressions and exploitations, generally termed affirmative action.

Wojtek: However, racism is a very poorly defined concept. It has a host of other cultutralist and psychologiocal connotations that tend to to obscure the economic inequality. And I think that because of those connotations, the ruling class and its agents, like Clinton, use racism as a stock phrase. It is precisely because they hope to direct public iattention toward those culturalist and psychological aspects while obscuring the systemic roots of poverty in this country.

Chas: The main users of the term racism are not liberals but radicals and communists. Focussing on racism is the last thing the capitalists want. It is the key to ending the whole capitalist system for whites and Blacks. It is not a psychologizing diversion , but the number one political and economic propganda trick of the U.S. bourgeoisie.

Wojtek: On the top of it, there is a host of moral entrepreneurs, symbol manipulators, academics, reverends, politicians, literary critics etc. who see it as an opportunity to either sell their cultural commodity or to spring themsleves to leadership positions. They might not be conscious collaborators, but their talk about 'racism' dove-tails with the ruling class efforts of blaming the psychological phenomena instead of blaming the system.

Chas: This is, in your terminology, a bullshit and non-problem or small problem. You are completely wrong that talk of racism helps the ruling class. The ruling class has done everything it could to reduce the frequent use of the term "racism" that was the norm in the 60/70's. They are well aware that if RACISM becomes the big public debate and villain. the fall of capitalism is not far behind. You have it exactly backward.

Wojtek Paraphrasing Marx: religion, culture and pop-psychology are the opiates of the people. They distract our attention away from the material world, and stymie social change

Chas. To quote Marx exactly on U.S. Black/White: "Labor in the white skin will not be emancipated, while labor in the black is branded. "

Workers of all countries and colors unite,

Charles Brown

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