Bree Carlson: I think we spend a fair amount of time nuancing whether or not what we have in the county now is capitalism as it’s supposed to be. Well, no. It’s never actually been—our capitalism, our democracy, none of this has ever been what we say it is in the textbooks. That’s reinforcing the narrative underpinnings of it.
But every effort, every structure designed to concentrate wealth among a few requires labor. It requires poverty. It requires a set of people from whom extraction will occur.
And what we’ve done, with the secret sauce of modern capitalism and the way that it operates in the United States, is the story of race. It’s what makes it work here.
Sign up for our free newsletters
Subscribe to NPQ's newsletters to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
“I think we often miss as organizers the importance of understanding race as an arrangement of power.”
But it’s an old system, to Max’s point [Max Alvarez of Real News Network]. We should bear that in mind, because one of the ways that race has been so incredibly effective at reinforcing this capitalist structure, even as it becomes more broken and more extractive and there are more crises—even as that’s happening, we’re holding tight to it because of how deeply race has affected our ability to understand our own self-interest.
So, we talk a lot about race as the moral problem that it is. And we talk—if anything beyond the moral, anything beyond individual meanness, if we go anywhere beyond that, we talk about how painful it is for communities of color, which it is, and how deeply we’ve suffered at the extraction of wealth, which we have.
But I think we often miss as organizers the importance of understanding race as an arrangement of power. And there’s much more to understand about how much folks in this country are required to support policies, and to support corporations, and to support markets being created to surveil people—all of these things against their own individual economic self-interest, even when they’re White, because that’s who the vast majority of poor people in this country are.
So, it is not just a system designed to be mean to people of color. And if we think of it that way—and craft solutions that are designed to deal with if people think that people of color are less than, rather than to ensure that we’re fighting for things that change the outcome of institutions in this country, we’ll never really get at what’s really broken.
Racism does exactly what it was designed to do. It reinforces this new modern capitalism, which is devastating [to] actually almost everyone in this country. And we’re almost universally supporting it, even as it happens.