No human being has a natural aversion to another human being who doesn’t look like him or her. One may be curious about the differences, but certainly not innately hostile. Whence, then, racism — an antagonistic response to a particular race? Eliminating a natural basis for it, we are left with social — or even systemic — causes. In our society, racism expresses itself primarily as a bias against people of color, the extreme of that bias being the cult of white supremacists. Again, if this bias is not natural, what are its social, economic and political roots?
First, let’s acknowledge we are a class-structured society, the classes running from the rich minority to the desperately impoverished. This structure engenders a constant struggle for a share of the wealth a society produces — the rich minority clinging to its gains and through its wealth, commandeering the political power to rebuff change, while the majority struggles for redistribution. This was correctly defined by Karl Marx as “class struggle” — both the notion and the man being dismissed by wealthy advocates of a status quo who constitute the power structure. But dismissal does not necessarily alter the dynamics of history; a revolution is afoot, and as in all revolutions, it is being waged by today’s most oppressed: people of color.
This struggle in ominous, since racism is rooted in the very structure of our economic system; it serves the purpose of eliminating a specific group from competition in accessing a limited body of wealth — a competition that expresses itself, among other ways, in the labor market where people of color are paid the lowest wages. With racism playing an integral role in supporting the prevailing economic system, it follows that systemic change is the only path to eliminating it. And, indeed, premature attempts at a socialist society (i.e., a departure from capitalism) had the express goal of ending class differences inherent in capitalist structure — an elimination that would carry with it an end to racism dependent upon those differences.
Given this analysis, the foreseeable future does not portend well for the demise of racism. Nonetheless, the Black Revolution persists and in its undoubtedly indomitable march forward, inevitable resistance will be met with new positions — one of which may be a socialist agenda that attacks the heart of the class system supporting racism. It is hard to envision any other solution to so systemically-rooted a problem — a conclusion Martin Luther King Jr. eventually came to, and which may have been the reason for his assassination. While the wealthy ruling class may hypocritically preach racial tolerance, it will not abide the systemic change required to end racism.
Andrew Torre lives in Londonderry.