TUMBY BAY - As an old white man who has worked with and enjoyed long standing friendships with people of colour I’ve been following the development of the Black Lives Matter phenomenon for a while now and wondering what has brought it to what appears to be a crucial point in history.
It cannot be avoided acknowledging that the issue of race is incredibly complicated. Or at least appears to be so.
Neither is it avoidable that many people of colour might resent interference in a debate that they hold to be highly personal and which they feel has to be experienced and felt to be understood.
I cannot, of course, begin to understand how this lived experience feels but I think it is important for old white men like me and especially others in positions of power to at least think about the issue.
As someone who was educated in the early 1970s I naturally bring a certain bias to the way I think about such issues. And being what some have described as an old leftie I also bring a Marxist bent to my thinking.
This makes me biased enough to think of the issue in terms of capitalism and class. For what it’s worth, here is my confused and inadequate take on what has got us to this point in time with regards to race relations.
The first point relates to the relationship between workers and labour and the fact that capitalism has always required a compliant, disposable and expendable work force.
People who can be employed or sacked as the need arises.
To achieve those three elements it is important that workers are kept in a state somewhere between financial insecurity and near poverty or brainwashed into some form of psychological and/or inescapable dependence to keep them pliant and malleable.
In these terms the idea of slavery initially provided a perfect means to achieve this end. When that became unacceptable other means had to be employed. Chief among these was the concept of predestined and immutable class.
If you were born into a lower classes you were expected to remain there. To hammer home this message the ruling capitalistic class made sure that denigration was a key part of their strategy.
If you were a person of colour, perhaps the descendant of slaves or a conquered people, genetics was a handy thing to use against you to make sure you stayed where you were conveniently meant to be.
To this end a great deal of attention was dedicated to proving by all sorts of quasi scientific means that because of your colour you were inherently inferior and, to all intents and purposes, sub-human.
To my mind this is where racism and economics came together. And despite the passing of history capitalism still needs and is dependent upon racism, just as much as it needs and is dependent upon a class system.
Those stupid white supremacists and the like we see on television cheering people like Donald Trump have, as the ruling class intended, now absorbed and commandeered racism completely and act to ensure it remains entrenched in civil society.
As people like the arch-capitalist Trump knows, everyone needs someone to hate and people of colour are the perfect fit for the type of supporters he attracts
The fact that these supporters have more in common with the people they vilify rather than the capitalists they serve is lost on them. In their aspirational dreams they little realise that they are just as much the tools of capitalism as people of colour.
Now, if this makes any sense, the obvious solution and means of banishing racism must surely lie in the eradication of capitalism. It is only through universal equity that racism will end.
It is only when society is prepared to accept that all lives matter, whether they are black or white or any shade in between that racism will finally fade away.
The current crisis in capitalism, which began before but has been accelerated since the advent of Covid-19, seems to be offering a window of opportunity to re-shape the world in many ways, not least in the conditions of black lives.
As a catalyst for change Covid-19 is a perfect storm. Whether it might inadvertently change capitalism for something less rapacious and divisive will be interesting to see.
If it can go the mile and help overrun the increasingly obscene and desperate bastions of capitalism it might, in all its terror, actually have a silver lining.