There are two very frightening realities faced by the capitalist ruling class—their smaller numbers in relation to the majority, and their inability to derive profit without exploited human labor. Since they are the sole owners of the means of production (the factories, land and machines)—with an essential armed force to protect that ownership—they have irreconcilable differences with the majority of people who, instead of owning those means, are exploited by them. We can’t even decide how the profits created by our labor, which turns into the wealth of the nation, gets used. Only the capitalist class gets to decide that with their bought and paid for politicians in Washington.
So, the problem for the ruling class is how to hide that reality from the human labor they depend on for profit. How do you keep the majority from understanding that their misery is based on their not owning the means of production and having no role in how the wealth produced from those means is spent? Should it go towards endless wars, WWIII, more police, joyrides to space? Or, for healthcare, jobs and housing?
And, more importantly, how do you hide from this class of people that they reside in the same boat sharing a reality of economic exploitation, increasing with every utility gas hike, deteriorating social services or diminishing wages?
That is the role of racism, to keep those in the boat from recognizing each other’s similarity. Like a magician’s use of misdirection, they hide that truth by defining the parameters of difference for us, then giving those who meet the preferred parameters of the ruling class more. They get more in terms of quality of life, allowing them the tools and opportunities to develop a fantasy of superiority. However, even with all those benefits the preferred in that boat are still simply the human labor necessary to develop profit for those owners of the means of production—the ruling class. They will continue to have no say so in how the wealth they create is used, and eventually their benefits will hit up against austerity—losing their pensions, jobs and quality of life to maintain the profits of the ruling class—forcing even the “preferred” to react. This is when the wealth founded on their labor is ironically used to pay for the police or military now taking aim at them.
Let’s get back to that racism thing.
Racism is a tool to weaken our working class through division in general. It’s specifically used as a whip that inflicts pain to the oppressed for the purpose of maintaining the system of Capitalism and it’s neocolonial relationships. In order to attempt to feel less of that pain some cowardly people of color will willingly lend themselves as the lash of that whip, hoping to divert their pain onto another’s back.
They will lend themselves as mercenaries for the ruling class, but they must meet the higher standards of allegiance to their white masters by frequently having to prove a willingness to match the psychopathic violence of their white supremacist peers. They are traitors for sure.
Sometimes they serve as presidents or legislators serving their imperial masters at Lockheed, Raytheon and the various financial and oil monopolies making up the ruling class. They willingly participate by commanding drone assassinations even on the continent of Africa. And many of them are found wearing a uniform they should never adorn—the Blue one.
But no matter who has transformed into the lash of that whip, they are all under strict orders to aim their greatest violence towards the oppressed, wielded for a ruling class desperate to maintain and enforce the ideology of white supremacy.
That ideology had its primary beginnings in the 17th Century when it became clear that the numerous slave revolts consisting of a combination of enslaved Africans, Indigenous and poor and indentured whites jeopardized not only the slave owners and the monarchy, but the developing capitalist class.
In order to break up that unified struggle, slavery, where it had its greatest institutional development in the Americas, had to begin to be defined for an exclusive few using skin color and African and Indigenous ethnicity. However, the greatest emphasis—in regards to maintaining a continued supply of this free labor—was reserved for those from the African continent. This meant that Europeans would soon no longer be considered for slavery(as some were in the 17th and earlier centuries) and only as indentured. And, even if indentured, would be morphed into overseers, or slave catchers for runaway slaves; eventually given the title of police shortly after Reconstruction targeting Black people in the South using ¨legality.” The Southern ruling class created laws designed to justify imprisonment for the purpose of continuing the slave labor they were economically addicted to.
Racism also aims at the mental health of the oppressed. It’s used as a means to destroy its targets from the inside with self-loathing and self-doubt and a general belief of inferiority. This also is sometimes a motivation for Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples to put on that blood-drenched uniform of Blue: to become something different. But, even if by ignorance people of color join U.S. police forces, they will quickly learn the genocidal role of their employer and either quit or remain with a clear understanding that they are an enemy of their own ethnicity and class.
Those murdering cops who killed Tyre Nichols, just like their peers who killed George Floyd knew the role they were playing in protecting, not us, but a racist murderous system of Capitalism. The only color that mattered in those incidents and the multiple incidents this year set to create another record of police killings, was the color of their uniforms.
As the U.S. economy sinks further into crisis of overproduction, inflation and war economy—austerity will continue to increase and generalize the want that oppressed people in this country have always endured. This is when racism is of utmost importance, whether it’s used here or in Ukraine (with different parameters—Russian ethnicity is part of the subhuman race as defined by Nazi Germany and the current neo-Nazis leading a significant portion of the government and military in Ukraine). Racism is an integral part also of fascism and it will do us no good to deny its existence. It exists for Black and Brown people on a daily basis when we are treated horribly by those receiving more in society and when we apply for a job not meant for us or come home to communities occupied by military forces of the ruling class. How can we be told that our rage against prejudice, disrespect and the targeting of our children by police is simply a reaction to a phantom? We cannot disconnect the gun from the bullet as if they exist independently. Capitalism and Imperialism and Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism depend upon their bullet of racism—and they cannot exist for very long without each other.
John Parker is the coordinator of the Harriet Tubman Center For Social Justice In Los Angeles and a leading member of the Socialist Unity Party. He accompanied former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark on many anti-war delegations abroad. Parker was only 18 when he organized his first union election—at a small steel plant in New Jersey. Having authored a $15 minimum wage ballot initiative in 2014, his organizing efforts helped to push the city to act on the minimum wage increase proposals in Los Angeles. John Parker is a member of the Black Alliance for Peace.