Guest Post By The Barefoot Bum On Capitalism And Racism

August 15, 2009

My friend and colleague, Larry Hamelin aka The Barefoot Bum, is guest posting today:

Recently, Comrade PhysioProf posted “Diversity” In White Institutions, discussing the Witty Mulatto’s post, stuff white people do: use the word ‘diversity’ to avoid really dealing with ‘race’. I’m entirely sympathetic and supportive of the grievances of people of color, as well as women, and LGBTI etc. people (not to mention atheists). But sympathetic and supportive does not mean uncritical.

There are a couple of relatively minor things wrong with the article. The first is its lack of specificity: The author does not really say specifically what’s wrong with “diversity” (other than the implication that it’s not enough) or specifically what he would like white people to do differently. Additionally, diversity in academia and the corporate world is in direct response to the objectively true and legitimate grievance that various marginalized groups were arbitrarily shut out of these institutions. Diversity is half-assed, of course, but human beings are half-assed in general. Half-assed is better than no-assed, and all progress — scientific and technical as well as social and political — is nothing more than the accumulation of half-assed solutions.

More interesting, though, is the author’s criticism of “white” culture. The author doesn’t seem to be just criticizing a culture dominated by white people, where people of color are accepted only in insignificant numbers and/or only subordinate positions. In an earlier version of the article (since emended, I suspect), the author talks about institutions that can be “white” despite having a numerical majority of people of color. And, of course, we currently have a black man as President of the United States, and we are making real progress in including not only people of color but also other marginalized groups in positions of real power, not just subordinates. An implied criticism, then, is that such people are “selling out” to the white power structure, adopting “white” (and male, religious, and hetero-normative) cultural norms despite their technical minority status.

I believe this criticism actually has some merit. It is better read, however, as a criticism of capitalist culture. (And we white folk have to bear full credit and blame for capitalism.) Race and capitalism are inexorably intertwined. Capitalism requires a hyper-exploited underclass, and the hyper-exploited underclass in every capitalist society is composed primarily of women and people of color. White culture is capitalist culture, and vice versa.

Even a cursory study of history will reveal, however, that capitalist hyper-exploitation precedes and is arguably the cause of racism. Hyper-exploitation has been a feature of every society since the beginning of civilization. The first Western civilizations (such as the Roman Empire) were slave states, and who is more hyper-exploited than a chattel slave? And the original hyper-exploited capitalist underclass in every early capitalist state was differentiated not by race but by dialect, parentage and upbringing.

Racism in its modern form doesn’t really get going until the development of imperialism; in Lenin’s terms “the highest form of capitalism”. Imperialism features the hyper-exploitation of foreign countries for raw materials and labor-intensive work, and the foreign countries conquered and hyper-exploited happen to be full of people of color. (There are of course other contributing factors, including the American slave trade and the genocide of the American Indians, but these factors were motivated, enabled and facilitated in no small part by imperialist capitalism.)

There are exceptions, but social and political relations typically emerge from more fundamental economic relations. The social relations in the white Western societies pertaining to hierarchy and authority, the “work ethic”, the correlation of personal and moral status with economic worth, and other pernicious, soul-destroying and dehumanizing social relations emerge from the capitalist system. Of course I cannot read anyone else’s mind, but I suspect that if the Witty Mulatto were asked to detail what precisely constitutes the objectionable “white” culture that people of color are being assimilated into, he would name characteristics most of which could easily be seen as emerging from imperialist capitalism.

As long as we have capitalism, we will have a hyper-exploited underclass. And, given our history, that underclass will always be disproportionately composed of women and people of color. Simply allowing a few women and people of color into the tiny minority of the ruling class can always legitimately be labeled as tokenism and selling out. And there’s no feasible way (nor does it seem particularly desirable) to simply transform an exploitative, capitalist culture dominated by white men to an exploitative, capitalist culture dominated by black males, or brown women, or any other arbitrary group.

If women and people of color want to actually end sexual and racial oppression, hyper-exploitation and marginalization, they have to attack the roots of this oppression: the capitalist system. I don’t demand that they do so — their agenda is their own, not mine — but if they do not, I cannot see how their efforts would be effective.

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46 Responses to “Guest Post By The Barefoot Bum On Capitalism And Racism”

  1. bumerry Says:

    Thanks, this is a lucid discussion of capitalism and its many flaws, that part I entirely agree with. Even as a Socialist, though, I think that the U.S. is NOT a fair picture of capitalism but a particularly pernicious version. That said, I’m writing in a spirit of dialogue.

    I’m fairly certain that not all societies have an exploited underclass, for example. I’d argue that smaller societies and cultures where large cities and monarchy are not the norm traditionally do not develop such an underclass, and that people tend to share responsibilities and benefits more equally than we are used to seeing.

    Also, there are degrees of exploitation. Feudal serfs in England were treated far better than their post-enclosure descendants – they were cared for when disabled or driven into poverty by circumstances, with no automatic assumption that these conditions were their own fault. Even in capitalist cultures there is variation. Sweden treats its underclass very well, has a maximum wage and nearly half its political representatives are women.

    The U.S. is one of the worst embodiments of capitalism and therefore not necessarily a good lens. The social choices surrounding capitalism we have made are just that, CHOICES. I don’t think that we can blame capitalism, for example, for problems we have made for ourselves such as homelessness and genocide and prolonged slavery. Some of our problems stem even from suppressing capitalism with drugs: having more prisoners per capita than a human rights giant like China springs to mind.

    Getting back to racism in America, though, equality is not a few of the best and brightest in one group occasionally having access to social success. It is equal access for people in every group. We can’t KNOW who the best and brightest are if some groups consistently face malnourishment, inadequate education, violent neighborhoods and homelessness and no or inferior health care.

    That 50 year old African American housekeeper you see as you’re visiting your friend in the hospital might be the best inventor of artificial organs or physicist or mathematician of our time. Nobody except her will ever know, though, because of racism and sexism, not just capitalism. We Americans have decided, over and over, that Black people don’t deserve an equal education, and we constantly renew that decision in our policy enactment. We’ve chosen over and over to jettison the most brilliant women scientists and mathematicians (and other educated professionals) when they choose to have families.

    We penalize pregnancy and motherhood in the workplace, and our one child tax policy is higher than China’s more famous one. (This also penalizes fathers in their relationships, BTW.) We do not include unpaid labor – mostly in caring for children but also for disabled/elderly adults – in our GDP or our official unemployment figures. I use a slash because elderly people generally do just fine independently unless they are disabled as well. And many old people, disabled or not, are bored out of their gourds. My 72 year old dad sure is, but he can’t manage work much while keeping up his home of 40 years, so he chose his home.

    A million (likely more) seniors are just like my dad, who has limited energy but a lifetime of skills and intelligence. They’re lonely and bored, almost cut off from society. Meanwhile, parents pay exorbitant fees for after school programs. Why couldn’t my dad get a supplement to his SSI for providing the community service of hosting after school “latchkey” kids? Just one or two for a few hours a day in the afternoon, as a school-work hour gap stopper during school time and as respite care in the summer? Or he could keep up a disabled neighbor’s yard, tutor chemistry for community college students, drive around people who live off the bus line (carpooling all the while!) or guide museum tours.

    People with needs would pay less out of pocket, and seniors and disabled adults would be better able to support themselves and have meaningful contributions to make.

    Everyone benefits from government-rewarded interdependence in capitalist countries like Canada, Sweden, The Netherlands and France. I believe that racism, sexism, ageism, sizism and other -isms are the product of our political choices, not the inevitable result of capitalism. And I don’t even LIKE capitalism – as I said above, I’m a socialist.

    I believe that business should be in the hands of workers, with no false income divisions between different jobs (line workers should have the same income as vice presidents). I believe that governments should collect taxes to fund infrastructure including generous social services so workers have time and energy to focus on work. I think societies would come to more egalitarian and sensible conclusions if the people DOING the work run the businesses.

    Think about personal time at work. Everyone knows that parents of newborns aren’t as productive – why not just have them work part time for the first year? Everyone know that anyone at anyt ime can encounter a situation that makes them less productive. Life happens, plan for it like you plan for occasional late supply shipments or retail theft or drought or any other business expense, and just budget for it. Some people use the time off more? Well, let people who don’t use much take time off to reduce the stress that comes from imagining that life is fair. :)

    Okay, rambling comment over.

  2. Larry H. Says:

    bumerry: To be honest, I kind of skimmed the part where you detail the oppression, abuses and injustices faced by women and people of color in American society.

    The US might well be an especially pernicious form of capitalism, but so what? That’s like saying that Charles Manson is an exceptionally brutal murder. True, but we’re just as much against even relatively kind and gentle murder. Furthermore I think it’s the same thing to say that as to say the US is in its own terms an especially successful form of capitalism.

    If people were smarter, kinder, and more honest in general, capitalism — indeed most any system or no system at all — would work reasonably well. But most people aren’t very smart, aren’t very kind and lie like rugs. The point is how to manage this stupidity, half-assedness, assholiness and deceit.

    I’m no historian, but I’m dubious of your claim that pre-enclosure serfs in England were treated better than those under capitalism. Regardless, pre- or post-enclosure, it seems relatively obvious that feudal serfs were in fact hyper-exploited; the vast majority of their surplus labor went to maintaining and feeding the armies of the feudal hierarchy.

    Sure, we can fart around and mitigate the very sharpest edges of capitalism, but this half-assed farting around is precisely what the Witty Mulatto objects to. And why not? A little less racism, a little less sexism is desirable, but no racism at all is better. If I’m hitting you, you wouldn’t object to me hitting a little less hard, but you’d rather I stopped hitting you at all.

    Regardless, hyper-exploitation (the appropriation of most or all of the surplus labor of a class, leaving them to consume the bare minimum for physical survival) is an ineluctable feature of capitalism, and hyper-exploitation entails oppression, abuse and injustice. The “statistical gravity” of the types of behavior rewarded and encouraged under a capitalist system make it practically impossible to eliminate hyper-exploitation by personal effort: one person refusing to exploit others just creates a vacuum for another to exploit them more. Short of changing everyone’s psychology using orbital mind control lasers, we have to change our social constructions, the “system” as it were, if we are going to eliminate the roots of racism, sexism and other forms of class oppression.

  3. Larry H. Says:

    (Furthermore, you pretty much support my point: the remedies you suggest are precisely the sort of socialist, anti-capitalist economic measures that would strike most strongly at the economic roots of racism, sexism and class oppression.)

  4. jc Says:

    “If women and people of color want to actually end sexual and racial oppression”
    Uh, I’ll take *End to Oppression* for $11.4 trillion, Larry.

    Answer:
    The women and POCs aren’t in a position to actually end oppression, since they would have done so if it hadn’t been for this clusterfuck.

    Question:
    What is the Patriarchy?

    That is the correct answer! Thanks for your token participation. The check is in the mail.

  5. Larry H. Says:

    jc: I disagree. The white male capitalist power structure is not going to end exploitation and oppression out of the goodness of their flinty little hearts. If we’re going to end oppression, it has to be the oppressed who resist. This is not a moral position, it’s a pragmatic position. It *is* possible and it has been done.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    To be honest, I kind of skimmed the part where you detail the oppression, abuses and injustices faced by women and people of color in American society.

    Because you can afford to?

    It’s not about what we,the oppressed,need to do better to end our oppression. It’s about those who unthinkingly benefit from that oppression (not because they’re BAD, but because they can skim along without thinking about it pretty easily) stepping up to change their thinking.

    Capitalism or patriarchy, it doesn’t matter, they’re facets of the same human system–the one that systematically denies default personhood to certain segments of the population (women, mostly, since there is not one area of the planet where women are seen as default human beings).

    It isn’t ended by change in the law, as has been amply demonstrated. It ends when people stop automatically THINKING in terms of what the oppressed should be doing better to get *their* message across.

    Those who benefit (unwillingly, by default) from these multiple types of oppression also have to step up if they have any interest in being decent people. But most don’t see that. Instead they ask (or insist that) the oppressed, who expend huge amounts of energy just navigating the system themselves, to explain and teach and hold the hands of the oppressors and lead them into the light.

    IOW, if you want to help, quit piling more work on those already doing the lion’s share.

  7. jc Says:

    It’s also a mistake to lump women and POCs into the same oppression “boat”. We are in individual boats, sometimes family and community boats, but getting us all to focus on breaking through with resistance, especially in the face of easier resignation, isn’t gonna happen without help from those on privileged side helping us all get the boats upright to row in the same direction to shore. I’m tired of the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” nonsense – bailing water and keeping heads above water isn’t “resistance.”

  8. Paul S. Says:

    It’s not like capitalism is the only kind of social system that “hyper-exploits” people. In fact, there are very few societies of any kind that don’t have a lot of exploitation. I’ve never seen any evidence that societies that consider themselves socialist or communist have been any less prone to exploitation and unequal treatment than capitalist ones – in some cases, quite the opposite.

  9. Isabel Says:

    “I’m no historian, but I’m dubious of your claim that pre-enclosure serfs in England were treated better than those under capitalism.” Post-enclosure these formerly self-sufficient people were driven into cities to depraved poverty, where those who couldn’t find positions as servants starved to death or were kidnapped or coerced into slave labor in the colonies, and later to debtors prison and to labor in workhouses. Yes I’d say it was worse than serfdom.

    BB, are you suggesting that 66% of the US (the whites) are lording it over the 33% ‘other’ and that this is the way it has traditionally been? I think that’s ludicrous. First there is a lot more overlap than you and others admit. All races are spread out amongst the classes, with whites indeed predominating at the top. But below the top 20% there is a less clear distinction, with Asians having the highest median income overall, and anyway the 20/80 rule is pretty common worldwide whether you are looking at dictatorships or democracies.

    A lot of dichotomies that are being perceived now are due to the majority of immigrants being POC in recent decades. They are doing the jobs done by “ethnic whites” in earlier decades, and poor Anglos even earlier. Even at the height of black slavery less than 5% of whites owned slaves. In the south during the Civil War period most whites were poor.

    The upper classes, or rich are a much tinier percent than the oft-used casual equation white=rich would warrant, and ease of upward mobility by whites greatly exaggerated. Whites have certainly spent their share of time being slaves or servants over the brutal centuries of ‘civilized’ human history. Has the study of social stratification now also been completely racialized?

  10. Larry H. Says:

    God damn, Comrade, but you have some really fucking stupid commenters.

    Anonymous:

    It’s not about what we,the oppressed,need to do better to end our oppression. It’s about those who unthinkingly benefit from that oppression (not because they’re BAD, but because they can skim along without thinking about it pretty easily) stepping up to change their thinking.

    This is nonsense. It’s hopelessly naive to believe that oppression is the result of unthinking behavior of well-meaning people, who merely need to be informed about the consequences of their behavior to correct it and end the oppression.

    Capitalism or patriarchy, it doesn’t matter, they’re facets of the same human system–the one that systematically denies default personhood to certain segments of the population (women, mostly, since there is not one area of the planet where women are seen as default human beings).

    This is my whole point: To end oppression, you have to change the system, and create a system that doesn’t fundamentally “bake in” exploitative economic relationships.

    [Oppression] isn’t ended by change in the law, as has been amply demonstrated.

    Of course not: laws under our current system are part of that system, and the system itself is at fault, not the particular implementation of that system.

    It ends when people stop automatically THINKING in terms of what the oppressed should be doing better to get *their* message across.

    Again, nonsense. Again, it’s naive to believe that oppression will be ended merely by changing people’s thinking, and it’s fucking idiotic to believe that oppression will be ended when we stop evaluating the “message” of the oppressed critically and rationally.

    I’m not trying to help anyone “get their message across”. If you actually read the post, that’s at best a peripheral point, directed at a specific message. The point is that to actually end oppression by radically changing the system itself.

    Those who benefit (unwillingly, by default) from these multiple types of oppression also have to step up if they have any interest in being decent people.

    You’ve gone beyond idiocy to complete insanity. Those who really benefit from the system — i.e. the wealthy ruling class — are never going to step up in the interest of being “decent people”. You don’t have to convince me, you have to convince Rupert Murdoch.

    I’m not piling more work on anyone, that’s total nonsense. I’m saying first that no one will stop oppression out of the goodness of their heart; oppression ends only when the oppressed resist oppression, make it more expensive and difficult to oppress them than to liberate them, and take their rights. If that’s “too much work”, that’s not my fault. Second, if resistance to oppression is to be successful, it has to actually change the economic system that creates it.

    That’s enough for today, there’s only so much stupid I can handle at one time. I’ll respond to the next moronic comment tomorrow.

  11. Larry H. Says:

    The thing is, under capitalism, you’re either the exploiter or the exploited; there’s no middle ground. (Most people are a little of both: exploited by those above, exploiting those below.) Exploitation always entails oppression: you have to oppress the exploited or they won’t allow themselves to be exploited.

    The only way for a well-meaning middle-class person to avoid exploiting others is to commit suicide or become part of the hyper-exploited underclass, neither of which does a damn thing to end exploitation: the ruling class would love it if everyone else were voluntarily hyper-exploited.

    If people want to complain about their oppression, I’ll certainly lend them a sympathetic ear. It’s true, it exists, and it sucks. But you can find sympathy in the dictionary between shit and syphilis, and it’s about as useful as either. The only thing that’s going to actually end oppression is a radical, fundamentally different economic system.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Damn, PP, you have some idiotic guest posters.

  13. Larry H. Says:

    jc:

    It’s also a mistake to lump women and POCs into the same oppression “boat”.

    Showing a general similarity is not lumping people into the same boat.

    [G]etting us all to focus on breaking through with resistance, especially in the face of easier resignation, isn’t gonna happen without help from those on privileged side helping us all get the boats upright to row in the same direction to shore.

    Could you write a more turgid metaphor? It’s not quite completely incomprehensible, and that it’s vague, meaningless bullshit is too easily apparent.

    I will repeat my earlier point: those with privilege, real privilege (i.e. being in the top 0.1% of income and wealth) that would put them in a position to make substantive changes to the system, are not going to abandon their privilege. They are not going to change the capitalist system and they are not going change the “white” social and cultural constructs that capitalism requires.

    If pushed — pushed hard — the ruling class can and have admit people without regard to race, gender, etc. But the ruling class is and must remain tiny, and only a small fraction of the members of exploited and oppressed classes will receive admission. Furthermore, the price of admission is loyalty to the ruling class, signaled by adoption of particular “white” (i.e. capitalist-friendly) social norms and enforcement of “white” norms on the middle and lower classes.

    The middle classes simply do not have the power to change the underlying capitalist system.

    Because hyper-exploitation is ineluctable under capitalism, and because of our history of race and gender oppression, we will always have an underclass, and that underclass will always be racially and sexually biased, regardless of admission of women and people of color into the ruling and middle classes.

    Again, I will direct you to the original article by the Witty Mulatto. The point of that article is not that the semi-privileged white liberal middle class isn’t doing anything, it’s that they’re not doing enough, and they’re not doing things in the right direction. I agree. But what is enough? What is the right direction?

    My position is that the right direction is the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of some form of socialism or communism. I don’t expect to convince everyone, and I certainly don’t expect to convince anyone as thick-headed, dogmatic and vague as the commenters here, but if all you have is a different opinion, good for you. If you have any actual criticism, I’d love to hear it.

  14. Larry H. Says:

    Anonymous: The difference between you and me is that I don’t just mouth off; I actually show why and how stupid people are stupid. This is a task to which your tiny little brain is apparently unequal.


  15. […] as well as social and political — is nothing more than the accumulation of half-assed solutions. Guest Post By The Barefoot Bum On Capitalism And Racism « Comrade PhysioProf   « Miley Cyrus performed at the Teen Choice Awards last night and, yes, you’re […]

  16. Catharine Says:

    Larry: I am amazed and delighted, and a little shocked so I don’t quite know what to say, except: FINALLY, SOMEBODY GETS IT. Plenty of ink has been spilled about the various social injustices that are apparent in our society. Good. I’m glad at least a few people have been able to maintain a modicum of critical thinking. But so few people take a step back to consider the root of the problem which, you said it, is Capitalism. Our education, beliefs, values, mythologies, culture (including ideas about “human nature”) and so forth are created, sustained and promoted by a fundamentally unjust economic system. And although we may make small amounts of progress here and there, as long as every human interaction is taking place within the context of a fundamentally unjust system, we will never see true justice, we will never have the opportunity to develop our individual potential (to the fullest) and we will never be free.

    Thank you for having the guts to say it like it is.

  17. Larry H. Says:

    Paul S.:

    I’ve never seen any evidence that societies that consider themselves socialist or communist have been any less prone to exploitation and unequal treatment than capitalist ones – in some cases, quite the opposite.

    It’s definitely the case that historically, communist and socialist societies have not been models of Utopian happiness. Happily, we are not limited to simply reproducing historical communist societies: communism is a human construct, and it is what we decide we want it to be. There’s no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    I may be mistaken, but to me any society that avoids or even ameliorates the kind of exploitation that capitalism makes ineluctable must include the sine qua non of communism: the public, social ownership of the means of production.

  18. Larry H. Says:

    Isabel: It’s well known that you’re a complete idiot. It’s not even worth reading your inane babbling, much less responding to it.

  19. Isabel Says:

    Why bother telling me then, asshole. And it’s not “well-known” in fact, I consider it a litmus test of who actually is an idiot – now that includes you. Why would you not read something for that reason? What a stupid reason. And it proves my point that name-calling can fall under ad hominem. Because you’ve heard pee-pee calling me names, you won’t consider my arguments.

    Why don’t you live by your own words and show how my arguments are stupid (or me- whatever works for you)otherwise I will have to conclude that you have a tiny brain:)

    “Anonymous: The difference between you and me is that I don’t just mouth off; I actually show why and how stupid people are stupid. This is a task to which your tiny little brain is apparently unequal.”

  20. Larry H. Says:

    Fair enough, Isabel. You’re correct: you deserve an explanation about precisely why you’re a complete idiot. And since the discussion on the OP has died down, talking about your intellectual and moral shortcomings won’t distract.

    I’m no historian, but I’m dubious of your claim that pre-enclosure serfs in England were treated better than those under capitalism.

    Post-enclosure these formerly self-sufficient people…

    There are several problems here. First, when I say I’m dubious, I actually mean dubious: I’m not convinced of the truth of an assertion. This is an invitation to offer evidence or expert opinion. A dumbfuck such as yourself merely restating the assertion does nothing to further the discussion.

    Second, both noting that pre-enclosure serfs were
    “self-sufficient”, and detailing the post-enclosure abuses does absolutely nothing to rebut the assertion that pre-enclosure serfs were hyper-exploited.

    More importantly the point is completely irrelevant: The issue is capitalism today, not in 18th/19th England.

    BB, are you suggesting that 66% of the US (the whites) are lording it over the 33% ‘other’ and that this is the way it has traditionally been?

    I have been justly accused of pedantry and over-literalism, but rarely coyness and innuendo. I say what I have to say, and I expect to be judged on what I say, not what I “suggest”… especially when that suggestion lies in the brain of moron whose brain cells can be counted without exponential notation.

    You give a bunch of statistics without drawing any conclusion about the points I’ve raised; indeed it does not seem possible to relate those statistics to my point in any way. Indeed, the entire remainder of your comment has nothing to do with the OP. It seems apparent you do not actually read anything, you merely pick out a few words to seed your random nonsense generator to give your commentary a superficial relevance to the topic at hand.

    Because you’ve heard pee-pee calling me names, you won’t consider my arguments.

    I said your comment wasn’t worth reading; I didn’t say I didn’t read it. My opinion of your character and intelligence is based on actually reading your commentary over time here and on other venues. You are rarely even relevant to the topic at hand, and whether or not you’re relevant, you usually miss the point, and your opinions and thoughts are invariably of low quality.

    You can’t read, you can’t think, and you can write only in the technical sense that you can combine correctly-spelled words in the English language in grammatical form.

    As the saying goes, I’d try to see things from your perspective, but I just can’t get my head that far up my own ass.

  21. Isabel Says:

    “Race and capitalism are inexorably intertwined. Capitalism requires a hyper-exploited underclass, and the hyper-exploited underclass in every capitalist society is composed primarily of women and people of color.”

    “More importantly the point is completely irrelevant: The issue is capitalism today, not in 18th/19th England.”

    So the “requirement,” the inexorable intertwining of race and capitalism, is a newly evolved one? Still sounds ridiculous, asshole.

  22. Larry H. Says:

    So the “requirement,” the inexorable intertwining of race and capitalism, is a newly evolved one?

    It seems that simple logic, not to mention reading comprehension at a third grade level, is entirely beyond the meager powers of what your tiny little brain.

    To paraphrase Barney Frank, talking to you is like talking to my dining room table. I’m just not interested.

  23. Larry H. Says:

    The problem, Isabel, is that your comments have nothing whatsoever to do with the OP; they’re pure non sequiturs. Worse yet, I can’t even infer from your comments what your actual position is. Are you defending capitalism? Denying racism? Denying that capitalism has much to do with racism, i.e. asserting we could realistically eliminate racism without fundamentally changing capitalism? I just have no fucking clue what you’re talking about, other than — as usual — if someone here says, “The sky is blue”, you’ll angrily retort that the bathtub is full of brightly colored balloon animals.

  24. Isabel Says:

    Oh calm down. You don’t have to be mean. Just don’t bother replying next time. The “tiny little brain” line is getting a little old already.

    BTW the phrase “women and people of color” is somewhat vague and offensive -do you mean white women and men and women of color? You could say that, or “all women and men of color” as the way you stated it makes whites the unspoken default which is very offensive to some people around here. Also you forgot to mention children. Or were you including children of color but excluding white children?

    “I’m just not interested.”

    Good, because I remembered who you are. You’re that hostile, humorless guy from the religion vs reality thread. As I remember you were very bossy and unpleasant to deal with. Who needs it?

  25. Isabel Says:

    Ooh another message already!:)

    I think I’m denying that capitalism relies on racism.

    And in general (not just in reply to your post here) that the basis of inequality is racism. In fact we are in agreement – I definitely do not think that an elimination of racism would result in human equality.

    Inequality is necessary to capitalism, racism is not, unless your definition of racism is so loose as to include all forms of other-ing, which may be a psychological requirement – however you said PoC, which usually means non-Euro, so it sounded like a pretty strict definition. When so much of capitalist history includes use of poor and ethnic whites (especially Catholics) in the hyper-exploited classes, a situation that only began to decline in the mid-20th century (and at least partially for reasons that are actually anti-racist, such as the ending of white immigration preferences) I just don’t get your point. I’m for giving the generations of white men who worked in the coal mines or white children who worked 16 hour days in the factories the same respect as the Chinese who built the railroads or the Blacks who worked the plantations.

  26. ildi Says:

    Is Isabel the same commenter who argued in another blog thread that indentured servitude was just as bad as slavery?

    If so, there seems to be a common theme: white folks are just as oppressed!

    (Now I can’t get the Monty Python Holy Grail scene out of my mind: Help, help, I’m being oppressed! Violence inherent in the system!)

  27. Larry H. Says:

    I think I’m denying that capitalism relies on racism.

    Well. An actual position.

    When we’re talking about society, politics and culture, nothing is strictly necessary in the pure mathematical or analytic sense: racism is definitely not “necessary” in the sense that it is necessarily the case that 2+2=4 in standard arithmetic or that all bachelors are unmarried men. Hence I qualify my position in the OP: “Given our history, that underclass will always be disproportionately composed of women and people of color.” [emphasis added]

    Almost nothing in society, politics and culture appears ex nihilo, hence I also qualify my assertion that capitalism is the cause of racism in its modern form. In much the same sense, money predates capitalism, but money in its modern form is very much a capitalist construction.

    Racism is not an analytic feature of capitalism in the same sense that private ownership of the means of production, and a state that enforces and promotes such private ownership is an analytic feature. But I’m not making that case; I’m making an empirical case: Because of our history, racism is deeply “baked” into our particular implementation of capitalism, for a number of reasons, including (as I mention in the article) that imperialism is extra-national exploitation, and the outside nations exploited by imperialist powers happen to be composed of people of color. (Of course, the exploitation of women has much less to do specifically with imperialism.)

    There are in principle many ways by which the ruling class can oppress the ruled class to maintain their exploitation. The way which has evolved and presently exists in Western societies is a divide-and-conquer strategy, where the working class is internally racially stratified. This stratification encourages the working class to fight amongst themselves for sops — i.e. social privileges, good jobs, and entry of a few into the professional/managerial middle class and fewer into moneyed ruling class — thrown to them by the ruling class. This internal conflict keeps them from uniting and fighting for the end of exploitation in general.

    In principle, it’s logically possible to use a different strategy. But the racial strategy is working and it’s been in place for hundreds of years; the capitalist ruling class has no particular interest in devising a brand-new strategy.

    If you’re just making the case that racism is not analytically necessary to capitalism, OK, that’s correct, but not very interesting, and it’s not a case I’m making. My point here is that not racism is analytically necessary, but deeply intertwined with capitalism in an historical sense, so deeply intertwined at this point that getting rid of racism without getting rid of capitalism is practically infeasible.

  28. Larry H. Says:

    Also, I’m simply puzzled as to why you would bother to take the position that capitalism does not rely on racism. It seems apparent that capitalism does at least presently use racial oppression to further the exploitation of the working class, and there are profound economic incentives for doing so.

    So why protect capitalism? Especially when you say, “Inequality is necessary to capitalism.”

    I just don’t understand.

  29. Isabel Says:

    “Hence I qualify my position in the OP: “Given our history, that underclass will always be disproportionately composed of women and people of color.” ”

    Okay, as long as you’re including “ethnic whites” eg Irish, Eastern and Southern Europeans in that PoC underclass.

    “In principle, it’s logically possible to use a different strategy. But the racial strategy is working and it’s been in place for hundreds of years; the capitalist ruling class has no particular interest in devising a brand-new strategy.”

    It has been my position all along that we are aiding that strategy by continually scapegoating lower-middle class and poor whites, for example insisting they are racists no matter what they say or do, and encouraging PoC to vent their anti-white hatred with abandon.

  30. Larry H. Says:

    It has been my position all along that we are aiding that strategy by continually scapegoating lower-middle class and poor whites, for example insisting they are racists no matter what they say or do, and encouraging PoC to vent their anti-white hatred with abandon.

    I mention neither of those points in the OP, (and to some extent I agree with you), so why the fuck are you picking on me?

  31. bikemonkey Says:

    for example insisting they are racists no matter what they say or do, and encouraging PoC to vent their anti-white hatred with abandon.

    do you listen to yourself? ever? people excoriate racists for being racists. you know, for racist acts and statements dumbass. not for “no matter what they say or do”. FFS isabel, try to let go of your bizarre persecution complex for once.

    POC have “anti-white” hatred? who the fuck are you, Glen Beck? who exactly do you know personally and can attest to their apparently universalized “anti-white hatred”? I can see why POC might have a problem with YOU, if you talk in person like you do around these parts- but that would hardly be general “anti-white” hatred….

  32. bikemonkey Says:

    Isabel have you ever explained why, despite your usual analysis, dumbfuck crackerass appylachian whitefolk and their geographically dispersed co-travelers express hatred for POC and affiliation with the RichyRich whitefolk that you say are oppressing them?

    who is responsible for this state of affairs? liberal, privileged white conspiracy again? or their own dumbfuckery?

  33. Isabel Says:

    Ugh, why do these conversation always turn ugly?

    Larry H. I thought we were in agreement.

    “I mention neither of those points in the OP, (and to some extent I agree with you), so why the fuck are you picking on me?”

    Picking on you? Excuse me for asking a question about your post. I was only questioning a single statement. When you stated the following:

    “the hyper-exploited underclass in every capitalist society is composed primarily of women and people of color.”

    If you are including ‘ethnic’ and other poor whites in your definition of “people of color” fine, but that would be unusual around here, sooooo I was asking for clarification. Got it? I wasn’t “picking on you.”

    Bikemonkey, I think you are the one with a persecution complex. You seem to be very upset about my comments. Why not just skip them?

    And okay maybe hatred was a strong word, but “anger” doesn’t quite cut it. And I actually come across this hostile, disparaging attitude pretty frequently. For example on blogs people have linked to around here. As opposed to never hearing anything similar about other groups, certainly not publicly. Maybe you should ask yourself why you’ve never noticed it before.

    I’m an ‘ethnic white’ who just got to the party, well, who sort of has one foot in the door, and whose family suffered under both serfdom and capitalism, especially at the hands of the upper-class Brits, and who are as stagnated in their class mobility as most PoC, so yeah, being lectured non-stop about my legacy of privilege and my racism that is so ingrained I will never get it out of my system etc. (and which exists entirely in the minds of my accusers) on these blogs does kind of stick in my craw.

    And yeah, implications that my people have not only gotten a free pass, but have been the oppressors who should now sit obediently as we humbly contemplate our unfair privileges and silently listen to constant, endless complaints from our supposed victims – I don’t know, it sounds like the kind of sick religious guilt trip people around here would normally be mocking.

  34. bikemonkey Says:

    The problem Isabel, to be serious for a moment, is that when you see ‘privilege’ you read it as ‘free pass’. This is not what it means but is the traditional sticking poit for the yeah-but crowd.

  35. Isabel Says:

    Calm down, I’ve read all your propaganda pieces and heard all the stupid arguments on these blogs and elsewhere. We’ve already discussed this. I know what it means. It means PoC have to deal with issues I don’t have to deal with, even if we are equally poor. The cops don’t stop me as often. Everybody in the media looks like me. I don’t have to feel different from everybody else. Whether I fail or succeed I’m not representing my people. No one will mistake me for the valet. All issues relating to socioeconomic status are separate, under class privilege.

    Obviously I mean a free pass from the kind of shit PoC have to deal with that “whites” supposedly do not. Which I would challenge. Which is why I made the comment. How is the experience of a current Latino immigrant (all the negatives of which are viewed as “racism”) so different from that of the Italian and Irish immigrants of the not so distant past? When the current term “people of color” is used when discussing the past (even indirectly, as when stating ‘Capitalism always requires…’) we end up literally “white-washing” the past.

    And the issue of law enforcement – you mock me on DM’s blog, but I am the only one there, or anywhere around here, who seems to care about the racist drug war. Ironic, huh? Anyway, you are being a rude and arrogant asshole as usual so I’d rather move on before you start calling me Holocaust denier.

  36. bikemonkey Says:

    Everyone knows the DM is kind of a douche when it comes to drug laws Izzie..

  37. Funky Fresh Says:

    It has been my position all along that we are aiding that strategy by continually scapegoating lower-middle class and poor whites, for example insisting they are racists no matter what they say or do, and encouraging PoC to vent their anti-white hatred with abandon.

    Iknow a certain someone with fucktons of anti-white hatred.

  38. bikemonkey Says:

    You Funkster? You? Hahahhahahhahhahhaha

  39. Funky Fresh Says:

    You got me B-Monk. You got me.

  40. Isabel Says:

    Funkster? B-Monk? Could you guys be bigger dorks? Trying just a little too hard to be cool. Fucking losers. Why would I give a shit what you dick-brains think?

    “Everyone knows the DM is kind of a douche when it comes to drug laws Izzie..”

    as opposed to…..you? Fucky Face?

    hmmm. Couldn’t think of anyone around here who has raised much protest about the drug war in the 6 months I’ve been perusing the science and academic blogs. I suppose I might have missed a mention here and there. I have observed this strange pattern throughout the years I have followed the subject (and spoken out many times).

    Where is the leadership on this issue? Where were the liberals and “progressives” when 22,000 other Americans were also unfairly arrested during the 10 days we were outraged over the arrest of an upper-middle class professor? Are “potheads” not people? I don’t get it.

    Because we don’t protest seriously, it goes on. So no, you don’t get to scapegoat DrugMonkey.

  41. Funky Fresh Says:

    Funkster? B-Monk? Could you guys be bigger dorks? Trying just a little too hard to be cool. Fucking losers. Why would I give a shit what you dick-brains think?

    It is entirely hilarious when Isabel starts to come unraveled.

  42. bikemonkey Says:

    “starts to”????

  43. Isabel Says:

    You losers are behind the times in more ways than you seem to realize. At least I HAVE a sense of humor, although it’s apparently going right over your heads.

    I was actually enjoying arguing with DM, who is after all a real live NIH scientist/NIDA propaganda promoter, until you shitheads started harrasing me. Yeah you dudes are fightin’ the good fight, sure you are.

    Hypocrites. You’re the closet racists. And sexists. Don’t think I don’t realize I’m treated especially harshly around here because I’m an unconventional, “uppity” female. Pretty ironic huh. “unraveled?” Because I called you a dork? Because I’m right? Because I swore? How am I “unraveled?” Isn’t that a pretty sexist thing to say? Well, I won’t hold my breath waiting for Isis or Zuska to rush to my aid. Or CPP.

    Thanks for continuing to give me more opportunities to wake people up.

    On that note, here’s some more humorous material for your reading pleasure:

    What if they arrested 20 million Americans and no one noticed?

    http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3918/twenty_million_arrests_and_counting/

  44. BikeMonkey Says:

    what if they continually dogwhistled dumbfuck racist whitefolk and no one noticed?

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/08/28/the-great-white-hope-and-lynn-jenkins-r-topeka/

  45. Isabel Says:

    Of course. She’s probably the one responsible for the entire racist drug war! Fucking racist bitch. And fucking racist Republicans. It’s all THEIR fault. That felt good. I feel somehow cleansed of the stain of my whiteness, the awful sin of racism I carry always.

    Critiquing someone’s speech is a great way to feel less “racist” without having to go too far out on a limb, and actually do something.

    You should know.

  46. infanttyrone Says:

    Answer is available in numerous essays @

    http://www.joebageant.com

    Also see “Deer Hunting with Jesus” by Joe.

    Happy reading


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