I think most people merely want to get on with the business of living their lives and so long as there are no interruptions to what they consider normal then they do not become concerned with the things in this world that are unjust or unfair. I do not think they are necessarily at fault for having this desire. It is hard enough to get through school, to maintain a job, to sustain a relationship, to raise children and so on that becoming concerned with the problems of others may seem like too much of a burden to bear. In fact, many may never even notice the pervasiveness of suppression and inequality until someone attempts to challenge the structure and the order of the society in which they live.
For so long as the people who traditionally have fulfilled service sector roles perform those roles and do not attempt to interrupt or contribute to the ruling roles then there is no need for active suppression. However, when the son of a cobbler or a janitor aspires to become the owner of the janitorial business or even the corporation that employs the janitorial business and questions the rulership of those business owners and corporations then steps are taken to limit the progress of the individual from the underclass. The situation described above may appear unjustified and even wrong, inaccurate, and intentionally to be eschewing the facts and reality. However, this interpretation dissipates when the situation is considered through the lens of dialectal materialism, that is the competition for the control of resources and how this impacts the social fabric of a society. Furthermore, when it is understood that capitalism ideologically fosters a competition wherein victory is only achieved by the destruction of all other competitors, then the reality of the situation described above is not as far-fetched as one might have initially thought.
One of the more troubling observations I have made concerning the situation described above is that the rulers within a society often times do not know that they are in the ruling class. When Jim Crow segregation in the United States was in full force and cities had “white only” and “colored” signs plastered all over, it was quite obvious who was in power and who lacked power. However, different the outward appearance of the United States may be today, things are not as different as many believe. There may not necessarily be specific and overt signage signifying where a particular person, from a particular group belongs, but that does not change the net results of the system, which by and large remains much the same. Police officers still participate in context stops of individuals when they are ‘caught’ in the wrong neighborhoods; “sundown towns” are not necessarily a thing of the past. Henry Louis Gates Jr., a professor at Harvard University who is also a Black man, was arrested for walking into his own front door because the police thought he was a burglar. “Stop and Frisk,” a policy that began in New York under Mayor Giuliani in the 1990s, permitted police officers to stop anyone at any time that they chose, to inspect and violate their Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In addition to that violation was also the arbitrary and targeted nature of the law, which primarily targeted young people of color to essentially harass and terrorize them in their own communities; racial profiling. Now here again we hear the that the presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to institute stop and frisk across the entire county under the supposed rationalization that it will help the Black community. Help the Black community to do what? Stay in a pre-scribed place. Not the place that we belong, but the position within this society which has been imposed upon us. In 1964, Black people could not vote in the United States and as such, also could not participate in juries. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed making illegal the infringement of the voting rights of all people, especially, as it had been done through the cryptic practices of poll taxes and literacy tests. Yet, as a result of further, clever legal finagling today there are over twelve million people who are disenfranchised within the United States and thus the net result is unchanged. The police institution is still predominately staffed and controlled by white people, the courts are still predominantly controlled by white people, the jails and prisons are still primarily controlled by white people, and the politics are still controlled by white people. All of these observations are readily apparent whether by first-hand account (walk into a courthouse or police department or legislature), or by statistics. The fact that there is a Black person for President, Barak Obama, or person as a Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, does not alter the reality of who holds the power and control. The issue here is the rule, although people may want to focus on the exceptions to the rule like they make a significant difference to the net results. Yet, tell a white person that they are part of the ruling class and they will oppose the proposition as staunchly as an accusation of capital murder.
Many white people operate under the perception that they are not part of the ruling class because they do not interpret race as being one of the major factors that contribute to class and also tend to deny the prevalence of racialized privilege. These two condition are not only correlational, but are mutually reinforcing; i.e., the two structures work together to maintain the social order and class structure whereby Black people are largely politically, socially, economically, and socially constricted into positions of inferiority. To be certain, the control of capital is factor that impacts and delineates all people and many white people are certainly impacted by this in a negative manner. But, their mere affiliation with the group of people that are white removes many barriers that Black people must overcome to simply begin to compete in this system. Obstacles that many white people will never in their life have to consider prior to applying to school or a job, before walking into the grocery store, when a police officer pulls behind them in traffic, or renting an apartment, etc. When Black people are able to overcome some of these obstacles that are invisible to white people we may hear something like, “wow, you are very articulate” (for a black person; the end is usually left unspoken, but the intent is implied and felt). This is why a Black man with a college degree and no “criminal” record is at a disadvantage when competing with a white man with no college degree and a “criminal” record for the same position. A disadvantage that has been institutionalized and is reinforced by racial determinations within the United States society.
A very harmful outcome of these circumstances is the phenomenon of internalized racism, whereby the implications of the racialized class structure become a component of the identity of members from the subordinated group. This is expressed in terms of the belief that white people are superior and that Black people are inferior in intellect, politics, beauty, economics and so forth, and furthermore, that this is the way it is supposed to be. It leads to an apathy that limits the horizon of potential to but the near future because long-term planning tends to seem like “pipe dreams,” that is, things that are unachievable or unrealistic. It further leads people to feel satisfied with mediocre standards of living because they tend not to believe they deserve better and are worth more, that their contributions to society do not warrant a greater share of the profits of that society. The prevalence of the inner-city ghetto is the quintessential example of this in American society, wherein it seems the people are locked in a negative-feedback-loop of degradation into a deplorable and demeaning existence. These negative feelings are internally reinforced among those who are members within the subordinated group and may be expressed in phrases such as; “sell-out,” or “Uncle Tom,” of “look at you trying to be white.” A Black person is likely to hear something like this from other Black people when we excel in education, or we use something other than the local slang, or when we can manage to get into or graduate from college, or when we beat the odds and get a good paying job. The internalization of racism can go much further and people have even acted so as to prevent the others from progressing, such as the very conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who has taken stances both against the application of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action. In 1982, Republican President Ronald Reagan, made Thomas the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, of whose roles it was to oversee the application of the Affirmative Action laws. Then in 1991, another Republican President, George Bush, placed Thomas onto the Supreme Court to replace the nearly polar opposite retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Civil Rights lawyer who with the NAACP at the time, won the Brown v. Board of Education suit in 1954. All going to show that an exception to the rule, Thomas very likely having benefitted from Affirmative Action going to Yale Law School (the same school as President George W. Bush Jr.), has worked to undermine that very system that would level the competition field for so many. These institutions, policies, and practices paid for with the blood of our predecessor’s and years of their lives being undermined by one of the people they were designed to help, and did help, can be nothing but the manifestation of internalized oppression. When the dynamics of the hierarchical class structure become internalized by the people marginalized and minoritized by that structure it has the tendency to imprison them into a negative belief system that permits the system to function almost unchecked or unchallenged.
People have a tendency to grow comfortable with things that are familiar as they get used to the way that things function, regardless of how beneficial or harmful the circumstances may be. White people who are not familiar with the constraints that Black people contend with and are relatively comfortable with the circumstance of the conditions of the United States society will lack the necessary motivation to interrupt the way things are. Furthermore, because economic class distinctions do impact white people with all the relevant political, educational, and social implications; any interruption from Black people into that system may seem like a corruption of their opportunities as a result of the added competition. Yet, instead of focusing attention on those who are members of the most elite group and who control the distribution of resources and thus the opportunities within our society, the people who are most closely identified as being related to the interruption are blamed and targeted.
Most recently, when Black Lives Matter emerged as a national political platform it was challenged with All Lives Matter and even Blue Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter is merely the assertion of equitable value of human life due a specific respect that is not tinged with subordination. Yet, white people felt as if their lives were somehow being devalued by this proposition and also felt the need to challenge it by claiming that all lives already had value and that there was no need for a specific assertion of value of a particular group because they do not believe that there are subordinated groups in this society. The slogan “All Lives Matter” was the tool they created to accomplish a supposed ‘rebalancing’ of the social order they had grown comfortable with. Blue Lives Matter was an even more specific attempt to rebalance the attention away from the systemic inequalities Black people are subjected to, towards the police institution itself. As if somehow the police were ever in the disadvantage of anything or that they needed any more power or authority. The “Blue Lives Matter” slogan was the tool utilized by police officers and their proponents to reestablish the unquestioned authority of the police institution in its role to maintain the hierarchical, racialized, class structure of economic privilege.
The pushback to “Affirmative Action” wherein the policy has been assaulted as being “reverse discrimination” and “reverse racism” is another prime example of this phenomenon of blaming the interruption of the social order on those most closely identified with the disruption of their privileges. For the first time, a space was being made for Black people whereby some of the barriers invisible to white people were legally disbanded and they were forced to compete with Black people not having barriers to access. They found it difficult to compete and felt that it was an imposition into their comfortable social order. White people, because they had also internalized their “racial privilege” couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that they were being out-competed by Black people and still do not. We are likely to hear such things as “you only got into that school because you got a scholarship,” which is an expression of class discrimination, and “you only got that scholarship because of affirmative action,” which is an expression of racial discrimination because it is code for “being Black and thus unworthy.” These two factors are not only correlational, but are mutually reinforcing. We are likely to hear these things even in states where Affirmative Action has been repealed because of the pushback from white people. The belief that Black people are inferior is so pervasive, and the maintenance of the social order is so important that any imposition or interruption is immediately challenged with the focus being on those most closely identified with the interruption. Thus, when Black people began to break out of the social order we had been constricted into, there was immediate pushback by those in the ruling class of this hierarchical society to put Black people back into “their place,” and yet it will undoubtedly be argued that racism is a thing of the past and that the social outcomes are not equitable to the outcomes of the legal impositions of the past.
Chattel Slavery in the United States as it existed in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries was official abolished in 1865, with the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. A hundred years after that, Jim Crow segregation as it existed throughout the end of the nineteenth and for the first half of the twentieth century in 1964 and 1965, with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, respectively. First and foremost, the Thirteenth Amendment did not abolish the institution of enslavement, it codified it into United States law. Second, slavery is an institution that humans have depended on for thousands of years in multiple cultures and civilizations, and has depended upon the identification of subordinated groups to justify the imposition of servitude and subservience upon others. The belief systems that rationalized enslavement did not disappear from the human consciousness and social fabric merely because it was abolished by law; the feelings and sentiments are still very much alive and continue to harm the entire civilization; e.g., the Prison Industrial Complex. In addition, we are only one-hundred and fifty-one years removed from the end of the American Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which is but a blink of an eye relative to the millennia the institution of slavery has survived through. Thus, to presuppose and to assume that the belief system which rationalized enslavement no longer exists and that the impacts of the institution have somehow disappeared is not only premature, but also, inaccurate and ahistorical. It is actually cognitive dissonance and a mere justification to rationalize the maintenance of the current hierarchical social structure.
White people are not interested in releasing the privileges they have which grant them opportunities or relinquishing their political position to share with the subordinated groups who are currently minoritized, marginalized, and disenfranchised. White people are not interested in challenging the most elite ruling group because it will undermine their capacity to compete for the meager resources they are granted access to and control over. White people are not interested in deconstructing the invisible barriers that grant them a negotiation advantage in rental, educational, business, economic, political, and purchasing situations. It is not in their best interest to do so, that is, it is not in their self-interest to share resources and opportunities because that would decrease their potential and likelihood of living a relatively comfortable life.
Therefore, since this is the reality of the context in which we live it is up to us, as Black people, to interrupt the status quo hierarchical, economic class structure held in place by racialized divisions. We have to seek to understand the internalization of racism and how it manifests in our lives and in our communities, and how it functions to hold us in a position of inferiority by doing the white man’s work for him. We are already being oppressed, we do not need to oppress ourselves with the garbage they want us indoctrinated with. This means that we have to stop consuming the media the white man propagates, which utilizes the tropes and stereotypes that portray our people in positions of inferiority; and we have to stop relying on and trusting their media machine that presents to us fabrications that they attempt to pawn-off on us as news. Each time we marshal the courage and muster the people to transgress the invisible barriers of class and racialized divisions, they send in their internal colonization force, the police, to suppress the advancement of our people from abject poverty and suppression into liberation and equality. Then they attempt to paint the political activists as “criminals” who according to them are breaking the “laws,” and who are upsetting the “order” of things. We have to recognize that these laws that criminalize our claim to liberty and equality are but the tools of an antiquated system of hierarchical privilege and subordination. Furthermore, that it is their indoctrination through their school systems and media that sustains the fragile veil of equality that people believe exists in the United States. Their indoctrination machine has been so effective that many Black people do not even know that we deserve more and that it is not our fault for not being able to compete equally in this system. That we deserve better than ghettos and prisons, that we deserve elite educations, that we deserve jobs that provide more than merely making ends meet week-to-week, that we deserve a further horizon than tomorrow as a future to strive for. We deserve to not live in fear that because of the color of our skin we may not make it home from school or the grocery store alive.
It is understandable that most people just want to go about their lives and not to create ruffles or to stand out. For white people it undermines their social order and comfort. For Black people we risk being killed and imprisoned. That most people, and especially white people do not recognize this difference in potential outcomes is a major part of the problem. It is ironic, but most from either side will never even recognize that there is a problem until someone from the underclass attempts to climb out of the position this society has boxed us into. To make matters worse, until a sufficient amount of people from the underclass stand up and oppose the structure of oppression, the privileged class will continue to deploy and employ its rationalizations and explanations to criminalize those of us fighting to claim our human rights; fighting to claim what we are due and that which we deserve.
Above all else what must be understood is this; rights are not granted, they are fought for and won. We cannot rely on, or wait for our oppressors to wake up magically realize that what they have been doing is wrong and that for some reason against all logic that they will simply concede their unjust privileges to us. We have to demand that they relinquish their unjust earnings. We have to demand reparations. We have to press for equality and equity and we have to bring it into being. We have to fight for these things because they will not be given to us.
We only demand what we have a claim to by Right.