Racism - useful idiocy for dividing people
We share a common ancestor with chimps. We have about 93% of the same DNA. Within the human population itself 97% of the DNA is common. So, this 3% that’s left is the source of all the variation in people you see. This is an amazing thought. On its own it’s simple enough to realise that the differences in this 3% are probably relatively small, and saying that one group of humans is superior to another is a ridiculous assertion. The social reality of “superiority” comes from a power dynamic, which itself comes from technology and weapons, or just being first to get to resources and knowledge, which is essentially the same thing. Genes don’t figure, the justification for racism is bunk, the hierarchy racists pretend is real is an accident of timing and perhaps geography. The people at the top of these hierarchies, for instance see the aristo buffoons referenced in other places in this essay and their progeny, don’t seem to demonstrate anything remotely superior to any other bunch of parasitic drunks, never mind the ordinary mass of people.
Historically racism allowed the conscience-free creation of slaves, it meant it was OK to exploit them and murder if they were problematic, fellow humans were inferior and could be property. It meant going abroad and robbing countries where brown skinned people lived was an acceptable thing to do, after all they needed guidance from superior races and why shouldn’t a bit of their wealth end up in the white man’s pockets? Their wealth was, after all, something they didn’t deserve because they were too childlike to look after it properly whereas the white man was.
On the other hand, when someone arrives in your country and it’s easy to spot their ancestors came from a different place because of something as trivial as their skin colour it’s very convenient for our masters. Blaming, what psychologists call othering is a very useful tool. It keeps people from realising who is really ripping them off and keeping them down. It keeps the other conveniently trapped in ghettos. Stopping them doing better because of jealousy has the useful side product of stopping and slowing down yourself while your true owner laughs quietly and lets you damage your own prospects. It’s no accident that the places where Jim Crow was at its most rampant in the USA are still the poorest, with the worst outcomes for everybody. The people who thought themselves superior kept themselves back too because they could be safely ignored.
Empire socialists, like all centrist thinkers, live in the eternal now. People are poor because they deserve to be. There was no luck in involved in the creation of obscene wealth and its holders are entitled to it untramelled. Poor countries are being robbed by capitalist corporations because that’s the way it always has been. Principles, if they exist at all, are negotiable for short-term goals. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard a variation on the story say what you need to say to get elected, then make the changes you think society needs. The idea of having principles and forming policies and ideas from them, of lovingly explaining what and why you are trying to do, of listening and standing back out of the way when the people whose needs are important to you liberate themselves, is totally alien to this mode of thinking. It’s the same kind of self-righteous pomposity that uses hypocritical lies like this is for your own good and this hurts me more than it hurts you.
Fundamentally, who has autonomy? Who decides what should be done and when? Not the political class, what do they know? We’ve already seen many examples in this essay of how disconnected they all are. The political class are an appendage of the capitalist system, take any attempt at leadership from them with the proverbial pinch of salt.
We have also learned from the Covid-19 outbreak that BAME folks tend to cluster in low-paid jobs and live in poor housing because historical discrimination means they are disproportionately poor. This isn’t surprising, but it shows that they are the canary in the coal mine and take the brunt of whatever nastiness gets served up by our disgusting incompetent governments. So we’re seeing the end results of decades of systemic racism, but none of the mainstream commentators seems able to say it. They seem to think it’s something magical and inexplicable.
Splitting the working class using race is makes it harder for the class as a whole to fight oppression. Looking over your shoulder at what the other person has means you’re not looking at what you have, what you need, or your own difficulties. It’s a victory for your owner if you’re distracted by this. Actively joining in with your owners to force worse conditions on the others is a betrayal.
It also means the people being othered find solidarity and help from the wider society harder to get. So the owners win again. They can hyper exploit work forces that have othered people in them with far less push back from everyone else.
Then, the existence of the hyper exploited pulls down what the rest of the working class can obtain, it acts like an anchor. Bosses can point to it and say they will bring them in to replace you, so you don’t feel able to fight as forcefully for fear of being pushed out.
That’s three debilitating losses in a row. Anti-racism, defending migrant rights, supporting low-paid marginalised workers, all those uncomfortable things that make empire socialists sweat, are in fact nothing more than self interest for people who understand the power dynamics properly.