Dear Reader:

We’re delighted to bring you this special issue of The Forge on racial capitalism, guest edited by the co-founders of Liberation in a Generation, Jeremie Greer and Solana Rice. 

The radical political scientist Cedric Robinson pioneered the use of the term racial capitalism to describe the ways that our modern economic system is inherently racialized. Capitalism, Robinson explained, evolved in a world that was already deeply racialized; the system is racial to its core. As we’ll discuss in this issue, American capitalism was borne out of enslavement, dispossession, and genocide — and continues to profit off the labor of Black and brown bodies while showing ruthless disregard for Black and brown lives. 

The insidiousness of racial capitalism has been on full display in recent weeks, as companies like Amazon, Walmart, and McDonalds have jumped over themselves to issue corporate statements affirming their support of Black lives in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The callousness of such corporate efforts to boost brand appeal by co-opting the power of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement couldn’t be more clear. Each of these companies has denied their Black and brown workers adequate pay, personal protective equipment, and sick leave during a deadly pandemic — directly contributing to the disproportionately high death toll in communities of color. All the while, corporate America has raked in billions of dollars in profits.

As the historian Nikhil Pal Singh tweeted in the context of the corporate rush to support BLM: “Racial capitalism is Janus-faced: it's not only ‘racist capitalism’ (often the face of police); it is the capitalism that expresses solicitude for ‘racial justice’ in every branding/philanthropic gesture while fighting tooth and nail to preserve the most brutal market dependency.” The question, then, is not how to remove racism from capitalism but how to remake the world in a way that allows all of us not just to survive but to thrive. 

In this issue, we’ve compiled an eclectic group of essays analyzing the breadth and reach of racial capitalism in the U.S. — and pointing to directions forward in the struggle to build a more just economic system. 

  • The issue begins with a call to action from Jeremie Greer and Solana Rice, who detail the destructiveness of our current “oppression economy” and the necessity of building a “liberation economy.”

  • Maurice Mitchell of Working Families Party and Varshini Prakash of Sunrise Movement lay out the disproportionate toll that climate change is taking on Black, brown, and working-class communities — and make the case for the Green New Deal as the best way to fight both climate change and ecofascism. 

  • Maurice BP-Weeks of ACRE documents Amazon’s “brutal treatment” of its Black workers while arguing for investing substantial organizing resources into fighting the company.

  • Raisa Johnson of BYP100 D.C. details the organizing efforts behind the first piece of legislation to decriminalize sex work — and why advocating for the rights of sex workers is essential to the struggle against racial capitalism.

  • Bernadette Rabuy of the Prison Policy Initiative argues that this is the moment not just to defund the police but to defund the entire correctional system and begin the process of decarceration. 

  • Lawrence Grandpre of a Beautiful Struggle documents the problems with current policy approaches to decriminalizing marijuana, arguing that any plan to decriminalize the drug must come with substantial investments in Black and brown communities. 

  • Rodney Foxworth of Common Future calls for philanthropists to change the way they invest their assets and endowments in order to redistribute wealth and empower Black and brown communities. 

  • Briana Hammons of the Fines and Fees Justice Center criticizes the criminal justice system’s fines and fees policies for the disproportionate harm they cause to Black and brown communities. 

We’ve also put together three audio articles and two standalone interviews so you can listen on the go:

  • In “Money, Power, Respect,” Robert Reich of Inequality Media and Maurice BP-Weeks of ACRE talk about the ways our racialized financial institutions drive inequality. 

  • In “Work, work, work, work, work, work,” we hear from Daniel Bustillo of the Healthcare Career Advancement Project of SEIU and Rebecca Dixon of the National Employment Law Project on the labor movement’s role in dismantling racial capitalism. 

  • In “This Land is Your Land,” Chrystel Cornielus of Oweesta talks about the history of Native dispossession and the role of capital in Native communities today; Cy Richardson of the National Urban League discusses the history of exclusion from homeownership and its effects on Black communities; and Tara Raghuveer of People’s Action and KC Tenants argues that we need to organize for a Homes Guarantee. 

  • Greisa Martinez Rosas from United We Dream talks about her work fighting for undocumented immigrants. 

  • Keirten Nivol, Zaina Alsous, and Danni Adams from Dream Defenders tell us about their youth-led fight for prison abolition. 

We hope that this issue creates a foundation for more strategic thinking and greater collaboration in the months ahead about how we can align our organizing efforts to fight racial capitalism and build the world we want to see.





 

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