A note from the author:
This project was inspired by Walter Johnson’s article, “To Remake the World: Slavery, Racial Capitalism, and Justice.” While I was familiar with many of the topics surrounding social injustice that we discussed in PHIL 220W, I was not yet familiar with the relationship between the issue of capitalism and social oppression beyond wage gaps. Johnson’s article combined with class discussions on racial capitalism educated me about the role of capitalism in social injustices, a connection which proved to be essential for understanding the root of injustice in America. The centrality of racial capitalism in social injustice and my lack of previous knowledge on the topic made it clear that my final project had to focus on racial capitalism and my relation to it. This project was completed during Fall 2020, when COVID left everyone feeling very isolated. During this time, I found solace in writing poetry, and so it felt only right for my thoughts on this topic to be expressed in a poem.
The land of the free, the home of the brave
Built by the slave.
Where is the justice?1
The American dream
Muffles the scream
Of a nation built on exploitation
Where is the justice?2
These ideas are not radical
The enslaved produced capital, the enslaved reproduced capital, the enslaved were capital,
The enslaved were collateral
The cotton-filled land stolen from native peoples–this is not natural
This is human.
Where is the justice?
An economic system based on racial subjugation
And not just in our “great” nation
Capitalism–racial capitalism–capitalism built on the suffering of the enslaved
Was strengthened by how other countries chose to behave
Britain abolished slavery
It took some real bravery,
Is this justice? 4
Britain was also the largest importer of American, southern produced cotton
Indirectly profiting from the system of slavery is participating in racial capitalism,
We have not forgotten
It must be said with intention
“Racial capitalism,” and pay attention
Because this isn’t just about the past, it is happening right now.
Where is the justice? 5
Modern neoliberalism continues racial exploitation
Developing nations need to build wealth accumulation
But world powers need cheap global trade
Forcing these countries to keep their markets open, their debts never able to be repaid.
Where is the justice?6
Countries with darker-skinned populations–the “Global South”–finally decolonized
Forced to repay debts to world powers, they are still disenfranchised
Global capitalism is still racial capitalism–neoliberal racial capitalism.
Where is the justice? 7
The system is corrupt.
Where is the justice?8
It’s time to understand the root of the injustice all around, and
Bring it all down. 9
1 Living in America, I am a white, upper-class, and educated young adult
2 I grew up in a home with my own room and a fenced-in yard as the result–
3 Of hard work, a business handed down, and the absence of racial discrimination
4 I am part of a supportive Jewish family and network built after assimilating to this nation
5 My whiteness and my wealth secure me with my privilege that is easy to ignore
6 Where does privilege come from? From the systematic oppression of “others”
7 (It is easy to be blind to my privilege, but it is hard to ignore the plight of another)
8 Especially when their plight is built into the economic system I benefit from
9 Only with recognition of our positions in the system, will I see the injustice–and overcome.