Race is a social construction used to oppress people in different ways across the globe. These ways are connected and complex, and they intersect with that issue of unchained capitalism and money-lust. For instance, rapping about diamonds increases the demand for diamonds; the production of diamonds rise, and so people in Sierra Leone and South Africa die. Where do the black lives matter then? In all fairness, when Apple creates a new iPhone model, demand for coltan rises, as does death in Congo. It’s not a black and white issue—Technically speaking its 256 shades of grey.
In his poem “Coltan as Cotton,” Saul Williams condenses all of this into, prescriptive, didactic lines: “Hack into doctrine.” “Hack into suffering and despair.” These lines are direct statements of his critique of Capitalism; how value is produced and distributed, how connections are made in the present, how the world lives its life on an exchange, and how neoliberalism feeds, fuels, and changes the conditions under which the existence of its subjects is reproduced.
All of these would-be examples of exploitation, enslavement, and murder of people by those in power are connected to big industries, big businesses, and the way they are entwined with the powers to be. As modern Americans, we have a much greater understanding of systemic racism. Nevertheless, even after acknowledging these truths, we are still ignorant about what a racist is. To me, a racist is a person who, through no fault of his own, adopts the status quo of racism, and adoption of the part of us that does not acknowledge and actively exploit that system of bias and prejudice. At the heart of being a racist is a habit of mind that is so primitive that it is involuntary. If it does not occur organically, it is a product of personal choice, not the inevitable result of racial conditions or power dynamics.
Some people, perhaps those who are white, can choose to turn their lives around and self-identify as black, Hispanic, or Native American. Other people, though, cannot and will never be able to entirely change who they are. Therefore, in an attempt to make sense of this issue, let’s examine a few examples of racial inequality, broken down in a historical framework, and placed in their historical and geographic context.
1. Native Americans
(to be continued)