A Radical Struggle
I’ve been talking reckless lately calling for revolution and radical change. I’m immersing myself deeper into learning about how to change The System, paying more attention to what’s really being asked for in The Movement, and doing my best to internalize these things so that the energy and information I put out is authentic and truly down. The biggest connection I’ve made is understanding how capitalism plays into the way Black people are oppressed, acknowledging that if we want to end racism and classism and other oppressive -isms, radical change is anti-capitalist. And then my reality was really checked. Can I operate - how would I operate - in a system that isn’t capitalist?
I know we live in a capitalist society, but honestly I didn’t understand what that meant and how it applied to me until I started researching.
Capitalism: a way of organizing an economy so that the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) are owned by individual people and companies rather than by the government
This still felt distant to me, but the point about products being privatized stuck out the most reminding me distinctly of the private prison industry, where prisons operate in a number of ways that allow for them and other companies to make money off of incarcerating people (such as outsourcing services like food and phone calls for example, and facilities being paid per inmate).
Scratching the surface, privatization impacts me on the day-to-day because of how wages are decided in relation to how a company will make a profit. On a large scale, capitalism is what upholds class in the U.S. and around the world. Everyone is competing to make more money and live a better lifestyle than the next person, driving the profit over people mentality the U.S. suffers from. Competition is healthy until it’s fueling greed and has us paying top dollar and weighing our options on quality for things that should be free and automatic, like healthcare and education.
Profit over people is obviously terrible, so should we not want to strive for better or more comfortable lifestyles? As a mother and an adult, that answer is complicated because I have mouths to feed and bills to pay so of course I’m going to be striving to make the most amount of money I can and have some left for leisure. Now here I am trying to balance somewhere between radical and realistic within my time frame. We all want a better world but are we willing to give up on the things that keep us comfortable in order to get there?
I think about capitalism and it’s strong, but painful relationship to our community. White Supremacy built a whole country and economy off of the oppression Black people, as we are so aware. The strength of American capitalism, this supremacy in another form, is present and grows because of how embedded it is into our social conscious in untouchable ways. The concept of Capitalism seems parallel to that of the White Supremacy because of how similar they are in how they work, but these two are not similar - they are the same. And because of how it has permeated every fiber of society, regardless of how bad it has been for us, we are enticed by it and strive for the lifestyle capitalism promotes.
We hear and see flashy narratives of “bootstrapping” a.k.a. “rags to riches” when we listen to our favorite rappers and it becomes easier to soften the blow that is being Black in America for centuries. We all want to be at the “top”, which looks different for everyone, but in order to do so we have to have people at the bottom. But, why is that something we are comfortable with, why is that something we continue to work towards?
America is a country fueled by abstract ideas and ideology that hold a System in place rather than actually stabilizing the people that believe in what is being promoted. White Supremacy and Capitalism fuel each other. Black people are striving to simply build wealth for themselves and have something to call their own and something for their kids to call their own - that inter-generational wealth we’ve struggled to achieve - but The System is designed so that we have to play by the rules and work within the confines allowed to us. And when I say we, it’s not just Black people; it’s Brown folks, women, low-income and middle-income folks, disabled and differently-abled people, folks with gender and sexual identities that aren’t just straight… But it’s time to break those rules and start imagining completely new systems and new forms.
The alternative has to be a society that puts people before - and above - profit. The health of people, the safety of people, the education of people, the achievement of people, and so on.
Things I’m going to be intentional about moving forward:
If I can avoid giving my money to a large corporation, I will do so - buying produce seasonally and locally, supporting small (Black!) businesses...
Allowing what I know and continue to learn about capitalism influence my activism and what I advocate for/against
I want to hear your experiences or struggles (or non-struggles!) with this complex system/topic. Do you have suggestions on how to practice anti-capitalism on a daily, because I need those too! Share in the comments.