Robin D. G. Kelley: What Is Racial Capitalism and Why Does It Matter?



okay can you hear me see that that only raises the pressure although you know I want that text because it's gonna go on my epitaph it's gonna be the biggest come the biggest epitaph on you and the continent anyway thank you so much it's really amazing to be here and for so many people to show up I think the last time I gave the cat's lecture there weren't that many people there were a lot of people don't do it there were I think it was a long time ago and I'm getting old so but this is amazing and hopefully I make sense I realized I have a lot to say and so I'm gonna get to it and I may skip over some stuff but before I do anything before I do anything I want to acknowledge that this University of course as you know sits on stolen land and it's the land of the Duwamish people the land of the Squamish people and others who occupy this area and I just hope that I can at least do some kind of justice in acknowledging that theft and the role that universities all over the country play sitting on stolen land I also want to thank Megan for not just for that wonderful introduction but for all of her brilliant work over the years and how much I've learned from her but also for this invitation when you gave me when you sent you know said the list of people were coming I know all those people by the way and they're amazing so I may have to come up to check out some of those talks and of course the Kathleen Woodward is so great to be back again here always wonderful to be connected to the Simpson Center to Rachel who I know is someplace here who did a lot of work organized and everyone else involved this is my Olo and also one other thing before I sort of talk about I'm gonna talk about this is also holy ground for me because this is where Stephanie camp who when one of the great historians not the greatest was here on the faculty whose book I teach every year closer to freedom who was just an amazing person and whatever I say tonight all the good things I say that makes sense are dedicated to her all the dumb things I say are dedicated to my son who's giving me a hard time right now so so we'll see okay so let me let me get back let me get to this so first of all um it's great to be back in Seattle some of you may or may not know that I actually lived here my brother Shannon is here who I hardly ever see in my nephew Xavier is here and so that's really wonderful I have some fond memories of this place and I have some terrible memories and Shannon knows about terrible terrible and the fond memories I learned a lot of valuable lessons about racial capitalism here in fact we can learn some in two minutes so I arrived in Seattle beginning in the fourth grade back in the 70s early seventies I should say on and was involved in what on the surface was like a social engineering experiment called busing we lived in Capitol Hill at a time on an apartment on the corner of pine and Madison but almost all the kids on our bus we were bused out to Ballard and if those of you who don't know Seattle Ballard was like a white community very white very Scandinavian well I don't know if it still is but you know but that's how it was central district was a black community let me say a little bit about that so we were bused I went to Laurel Heights Elementary School then Marcus Whitman junior high school and most of the kids we picked up on the bus were in Central District there was twenty three of us now I'm not going to talk about the psychological price that we paid you know being 23 kids being bused to all-white schools in the kind of racism that we experienced from students and teachers and what that meant and the trauma it left on us that you're pretty left honest I want to talk about that I'm gonna talk about valued all the kids we picked up on that bus lived in the Central District was considered a ghetto the value of their homes are considerably lower than they are now the value of the schools that cater to these kids were considerably lower which is the whole idea of being bused to these other schools busing was never about integration it was concession to family struggling to educate their kids and those who recognize education as a form of cultural capital if you look at the Central District now it's just not recognizable I mean a lot of us we played sports for I'm see a ye central area youth association football skiing you know or anytime we have a whole bunch of black kids skiing was to see a riot you know and which is kind of amazing thing because people on the slopes didn't expect us Friday nights you know it was a very different kind of thing but that was the whole point so gentrification and his transformation is not about integration never was about integration it's a modern form of seller colonialism and with settlers come new restaurants and shops and rising property values and improve schools Garfield in those days was not a good school now it's considered one of the best schools you know it's you know and keep in mind that Ouisa go swimming in the pool which is called Medgar Evers renew Medgar Evers says the place where all the black kids go swimming we didn't know who mega Evers was we learned over time so I mean you got to keep that in mind that you know what this story illustrates in some ways it's just a beginning where I'm gonna talk about tonight that is that racial capitalism you know in many much of it's about value you know what marks a Ricardo Ricardo called exchange-value is partly determined by things like race we can talk about that in Q&A for on – but exchange values I'm the same as price but in some respects race doesn't matter before we get into this question what does racial capitalism and why it matters I want to begin with just a few basic theses because I think I may run out of time and I'd rather stop before I'm done but I just wanna lay out a few things one race and gender are not incidental or accidental features of the global capitalist order they are constitutive capitalism emerge as a racial and gender division where to put it another way is toward halt puts it race and I would add gender or modalities in which classes lived now second thesis race isn't simply or primarily about an identity if you confuse sometimes race with identity it is a structure of power or means of structure and power to difference so skin color is not an essential feature of racism okay I know it's gonna be like what my students don't believe that skin color is not an essential feature of racism and I want to say that ahead of time cuz I'm say some things that might throw you off in terms of who's being racialized 3 the central story of race and the making of the capless border isn't always the most obvious story ok what do I mean is that the obvious story is like racial slavery dispossession imperialism I'm not saying they're not really important but it's not always about just those things but rather this the story of race in the making of the global capitalist order is also about the capacity of capital in the state to capture the white working-class and tie its identity to race does the whiteness and masculinity so the secret to capitalism survival is racism and the racial and patriarchal state now racial capitalism you know the genesis of the term you know really comes out of south africa south african scholars were among the first to really start to use that term in 70s mid south these I won't go into the whole genesis of it but it emerged as a kind of analytical framework to understand how the apartheid state structured relations of race class and accumulation but it also came out of a political question that political question was when we dismantle apart aid and we will what what's going to be left over in other words do we dismantle the racial state and historical elements the law or do we have to dismantle capitalism at the same time so the question is if we do that would a post apartheid nation still maintain the very structures that we produce deep racial class and gender inequality and I was a quite I still a question that's being struggled over right now so it makes sense that the concept of racial capitalism would emerge in South Africa where the racial character of South African capitalism was so obvious that the apartheid regime itself called myself a racial capitalist state and they they did they didn't even play they would say this is what we are I mean well before the ascendance of the National Party in 1948 and the formal implementation of apartheid you know essentially all prior legislation you know state and corporate taxes sought to do various things that basically foundational racial capitalism stripped Africans of LAM create a racially segmented and super exploited working-class manufacture precarity through population transfer and by destroying black economic institutions all the while they're doing this using the the surplus state they are able to extract to create what might be called a whites-only welfare state so much of that surplus is subsidizing what housing subsidies for white workers and why people massive police state to maintain order and the suppressed non-white opposition that can go on and on and on but today we tend to associate the term racial capitalism with this man Cedric Robinson and I should say by way of disclosure he was my teacher he was someone who who passed away sadly 2016 and he was a person who was responsible for much of what I know about anything besides my mother brilliant but we associate the term with him he introduced a term in his book called black Marxism to making the black radical tradition 19 1983 and he developed it from the term that he developed the concept of racial capitalism from it a specific system a description of a specific system that is like a part aid or ascetic colonialism to way of understanding the general history of modern capitalism so building on the work of sociologist Oliver Cox Robinson's objective was not to analyze the historical and contemporary sort of elements of racial capitalism instead what he wanted to show was how European racism racialism in nationalism preceded capitalism preceded capitalism you know was it existed before capitalism emerged when an emergent a thirteenth in the fifteenth centuries between that period and in doing so he directly challenged the marxist idea that capitalism was a revolutionary break from feudalism now capitalism and racism he says did not break from the old order but rather evolved from that old order from the old feudal order to produce a modern world system of racial capitalism dependent on slavery violence imperialism and genocide so as he put it the tendency of European civilization through capitalism was thus not to homogenize but to differentiate to exaggerate regional subcultural and dialectical differences into racial ones okay and that's within Europe that's to say that capitalism was racial not because of some conspiracy divided to divide workers or to justify slavery and dispossession didn't have to work that hard to justify same because that slavery within Europe not to make it up I mean slavery was just like common sense right but most importantly that wasn't the purpose because racialism had already permeated Western feudal society the first European polity Rian's were racial subjects that's what he's saying the first European polities were racial subjects they weren't just Africans they were Irish they were Jews they were Roma were gypsies there were Slavs and they were victims of dispossession victims of enclosure vixens of victims of colonialism and slavery within Europe itself and in fact he argues that racialization within Europe was very much a colonial process ok one involving processes of invasion settlement expropriation in racial hierarchy and it reminds us that what drove German colonization the German colonization of Central Europe for example in the Slavic territories was a racial ideology the ideology of Herrenvolk and the ideology here invoke presumed German racial superiority over the Slavs of central Europeans and he argues that you know modern European nationalism was bound up with these kind of racialist myths where they were talking about Herrenvolk or anglo-saxon ism or Celt ism or Aryan and Nordic myths we can go on and that that history of colonialism begins in Europe itself and continues in your well after the new world settler colonialism well after the Berlin conference in 1884 85 and it is the principal feature of both world wars anyone who studied World War two knows that when when not when the Nazis are talking about living room and and taking property that was about colonial domination over territories that they once controlled earlier and then we took so Cedric Robinson illustrates this point by examining the shifting and increasingly violent character of English colonization of Ireland in the late 16th and early 17th centuries so the dispossessed Irish who were not killed were ultimately dispersed and often ended up as indentured servants and ships to the New World or in my grant labor on the English mainland and of those historical circumstances of subjugation of colonialism those historical experiences that shaped Irish nationalism and determine their relationship with the English working class and rendered them an inferior race this is way beyond the scope of the talk but if you read like the first section of black Marxism it's about Europe and my students cars I hope we don't want to read about Europe so but you got to begin there you got to begin there because where race begins in Europe right in any case racial cap ISM then is not merely a type of capitalism okay and I know some of your undergraduates forced to come here I know I could see so I'm telling you what to take notes on okay so take notes on this so racial capitalism is not merely a type of capitalist say as opposed like non racist capitalism you don't have non racist capitalism it doesn't exist such thing as a non-racial capitalism it only exists in the minds of economists who themselves are thinking of racial terms right so the term simply signals that capitalism develop and operates within a racist system or a racial regime racism is fundamental for the production and reproduction of violence and that violence is necessary for creating and maintaining capitalist and why is that well first of all capital didn't begin with money okay that's not where capital begins money is just a medium of exchange capital begins with seizing control of natural resources there's land water fuel and creating cheap labor to turn these resources into commodities and that when I say violence that violence is cutting many ways violence is directed in all life and the land itself the earth itself I'm also the Imperial imagination envision the world of savages so once you get beyond I wouldn't say that because even within Europe there those were identified as savages but once you get beyond into the expansion of the Atlantic trade the whole world in in the Asian trade the whole world are deemed savages whose labor and land was there for the taking sanctioned by God now since much of the land and resources were held in common and I just want to emphasize this point this is the world most of the world much of the land and resources are held in common you know it meant forcibly dispossessing people and turning them into cheaper cheap labor or unfree labor and those and that labor was used to make things and grow things this is very important because we've grown up in a world where private property is seen as a natural thing by private property is like a natural right when for centuries it's the other way around access to the earth and its abundant resources was the natural right I mean look I thought someone bought this walk they had a by it and I'm drinking it you know out of a plastic you know waters privatize everything you die you had to buy you can't walk on property now because property is private so what I'm saying is that the Commons was what's been natural for centuries it's the dispossession from the Commons and the construction of private property is a concept even when I said at the very beginning of my my talk I said I paid tribute to the indigenous people on the land and sometimes we confuse what it means to be on the land what it means to own the land you'll have a concept of ownership so I'm not saying they own the land it's a very different way of thinking about the land right okay anyway I don't want your topic so this requirement for resources and for labor is really behind conquests behind colonization dispossession slavery and environmental destruction right these are the five processes in the creation of modern capitalism and white supremacy this is why we need to think about racial capitalism not just in national terms in global terms from its inception okay it's no accident that the global division of labor reflects this history with the lowest-paid in those precarious workers in the global economy being descendants of who of slaves descendants of the colonized descendants of the dispossessed now capitalism structures not just the public realm before we tend to talk about but also the private so any critique of racial capitalism means that we have to understand the role of paid and unpaid women's work in social reproduction and how this work is racialized okay so reproductive labor for example is outsourced especially as incomes and wages decline and precarity Rises both the use of paid services but also no we talked about the globalization of care there's immigration immigrant domestic workers these are all racialized labor no and so paid services paid domestic services becomes a real engine in the economy but also explains in some ways the the fact that we have part of the the the largest migratory they perforce in in history ever you know we also know from the work of people like Sylvia Fred Richie and others that privatization of the household under hetero patriarchy and the precarity created by neoliberalism for example puts women at greater risk of domestic violence of slavery and trafficking when I say slavery I'm not talking over the past I'm talking about savory today it's about forty four million slaves unfree labor in the world today and many of those slaves are sex slaves right we've you're all being you know bombarded with interesting stories about the discovery the revelations of sexual violence and sexual harassment and just so you know these are revelations of a very massive and old process these are not like new things in this in fact that not only that but they're very central to the reproduction of the system of capitalism and and although many of the high-profile cases are not women of color women of color are usually the ones who are most affected by these processes so women are also at the forefront of resistance many of the the antis systemic struggles over the last century have really been waged not by industrial workers but by women who are peasants campesinos by subsistence farmers many of whom are women by urban squatters many of whom are women undocumented migrants welfare recipients women often women who are in gender non-conforming families been at the forefront but we always see that as like the wedge resisting capitalism because we had this kind of romantic view of the industrial worker in the shop floor so what I'm going to do now with the time I have is very quickly sweep through certain historical epochs make a few points spend some time in a new liberal racial order with one particular story and then say something about Trump that's again ok if I have some time so and keep in mind that don't think that we actually started at seven because we did not remember we started much later I got to hear all these great things about about me and so don't don't blame me for that so okay so let's let's begin with something simple I don't have a lot of size I have a few that are coming up so let me just take you like two minutes on settler colonialism and the emergence of racial slavery because I want to say something slightly different now what made North America really unique as a cellar society were slaves the vast importation of African slaves and you also haven't saved indigenous peoples as well many of whom were actually exported sold to the Caribbean that's another story but the problem of settlers DePalma sellers face was sort of twofold one dispossessing indigenous peoples into managing actually issues threefold imagine coerced African labor because remember you can't call Africans immigrants or migrants they were stolen they were prisoners they were incarcerated in fact you know we have to be really careful when we talk about like how racial slavery emerges in North America it's just not true I this is way beyond the scope of my talk but racial slavery begins at the point of capture it doesn't begin in North America so like people like oh wow I thought I was indentured servant what are you doing but how come I can't leave no that's not how it worked they were enslaved at the point of capture but the third aspect of management was how to manage an unruly white working-class the rural poor those those same people who are themselves colonized and dispossessed out of Ireland who end up on a boat in the in the presidential servants because because managing the white poor and the enslaved meant enclosure in England and closure is a little bit easier than in North America because they have the capacity to enclose you have vast landscapes whose boundaries can't be defended easily so keep in mind as all this is happening in North America North America's colonies there's a pitch battle taking place in England at the same time over the Commons and there's a real fear among colonial rulers in the that landless white people and the indentured servants would be start to escape with Africans and they started doing that I started running away with Africans they began to join maroon cuff societies they join with native peoples and it was dangerous because suddenly white folks who didn't see any feature for themselves except as bonded labor suddenly saw a future with native peoples and Africans in other words an alternative to the capitalist relations of production in class rule so the white will is like we got to do something about this so no surprise it was all this is happening that's when the discourse of Indians as idle comes out at the very onset of the colonial period and it was a capital crime in fact for English to live with Indians yet by the late 18th century according to one observer there were thousands of colonists that is former indentured servants when their to service who ran away and had become what they called new maid Indians living as hunters fishers fishing gathering that sort of thing so they got around the problem by extending land grants to white people effectively ending forms a white bondage-y bondage woulda probably continued had it not been for this pressure and so the freeing so what we what we're seeing is not so much the consolidation of racial slavery but the freeing of forms of why bondage the creation of a settler class turning them into citizens and property owners that was key it made them white it made them free it made them settlers and that identification allowed them to identify with the identified ruling regimes now this didn't mean that they saw themselves as capitalists or that there was no antagonism between them and the owners of capital rather it meant at least two or three things one it meant that they came to see non-white labor as subordinate as inferior and whose interest in fate or not linked to theirs okay and some of the more clinical radical elements saw non-white labor as an obstacle to their revolution as a proletariat secondly and probably more significantly by identifying as settlers they saw themselves as future capitalists as future slaveholders as future cap captains of industry so with emancipation on a global scale colonial officers in free-market liberals in this case John Stuart Mill is both by the way he's a colonial officer and our free market ideology so these figures turn to what we might call and I have to say with apologies to my friend moon over here the three C's the three C's coolie labor the continuation of convict labor and in the colonies corvée labor okay unfree labor okay I'm not the first to say this but I just want to say I'm just repeating what other people have said unfree labor is they're almost like the more the norm than a free labor okay now a couple things about this who-who is who are the who is coolie labor who is convict labor who who constitutes core of a labor that is forced labor these are men and women I should say you know one say something about women women of color recruited for domestic service recruited as nurse nurses and of course reproductive labor for male wage earners but they're also included in all three C's Victorian gender norms don't apply to African and Asian women they still perform the bulk of agricultural labor they may not make up significant proportions of Asian migrant labor especially as more limits were placed on migration but they were left behind the care for children to work in agriculture or in emerging industries for black women African women besides domestic worker the domestic labor they were consigned to what would be considered chronic old man's work they built roads they worked on plantations they collected rubber in the Congo in other words they're considered what my friend and colleague Sarah Haley calls on gendered labor they're ungenerous stripped in some ways it's not just being masculinized it's basically being recognized as having no gender limits in terms of their their labor at the same time women were often in positions of being independent producers in the court in the realm of the colonies whether it means making cloth for growing small plots vegetables and small plots of land but then mass production undermined their autonomy in the seasonal mass production so over time especially as we move into the 20th century in forms of industrial capitalism as we you know what we know is Fordism you know workers are not just producers under ford ISM workers are increasing becoming consumers okay what this means is it something like finance finance was so essential to back in colonial projects and back in the slave trade in fact Lloyd's of London you know much of his capital and much of his it's his business was was actually insuring slave ships but but finance is very very important and early manufacturing enterprises also depend on finance so by the time you get to 20th century financial institutions begin to extend credit to workers and that enables them to consume more and they can afford more although their existing wages are not going up significantly under Fordism as more and more commodities become available that you know cheaper than it were before it's not just survival that's keeping them working it is debt debt becomes a driver in in other words we think so much before this moment of working as a way to just reproduce your labor power for the next day now it's about commodity it's about cumulation it's about having things and debt keeps you continuing to work in work and they pay that debt back with interest capitalist on the other hand can park their surplus in banks and they can profit from financial ventures so investments in stocks in loans to workers and to businesses at high interest rates credit cards come to being by the middle to late 20th century prime and subprime mortgages which we'll talk about in a second and as we know from Peter Hudson's really great book bankers and Empire which is out now you should check it out we know that you know that colonial and racial regimes allowed US banks to use the Caribbean and to use sovereign debt as a way to invent new global financial instruments to try open new markets and to accumulate huge sums of wealth while evading us regulatory regimes that's another way when racial capitalism is functioning so immediately we begin to see how the system is racial race and gender and citizenship status status determines wages it determines employment opportunities it determines a kind of labor you do whether skilled unskilled and protected unpaid paid access to credit to loans the interest rates charge that sort of thing all this is shaped by value racial value in some ways so differential access is determined by race gender and class now let me just jump now to more present stuff and that is financialization and racial neoliberalism okay so I want to turn to the restructuring capitalism or racial neoliberalism which itself is response to capitalism's crisis in the seventies and I'm going to illustrate this shift to new liberalisation of racial capitalism to a story come on tell about Flint Michigan okay the story of Flint is a story of financialization it's a sort of security regimes the story of the assault on democracy and it's a story that many of us know but I want to say a little bit more than what we probably know so many of you know about beginning about four years three four years ago you know the Flint water supply was poison and he may know that in 2013 the governor of Michigan Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager a man named Darnell early to take over Flint's government in order to impose austerity measures to reduce the city's debt by the way the story I'm about to tell is very similar to Puerto Rico right now you can see a lot of similarities we could talk about that you may want to so to save money early decided to switch the public water supply from the Detroit River to the Flint River the problem the Flint River was polluted everyone knew it it was highly toxic and to save money the new regime that is unelected regime unelected emergency manager stopped chemically treating the city's lead pipes which made matters worse so the results were that you know residents were getting sick and that's what their water looked like so residents continue to receive water bills for that water okay so of course they organized so let's look at the larger picture to understand the new liberalisation of Racial capitalism first of all over half of Flint's population is black and they make up the largest proportion of residents living below the poverty line and Flint is the second most impoverished city in the nation next to Youngstown Ohio secondly black communities are especially subject to this kind of corporate state dictatorship the idea that emergency manager system which imposes authoritarian governance in the name of austerity okay in Michigan for example forty nine percent of the african-american population at least two years ago had no locally elected government and were under emergency managers black people make up about 14% of state's population in Detroit in Highland Park by way my wife's late uncle was mayor of Highland Park for many years the financial crisis was used to justify gutting public workers of their pensions in privatizing in raising the cost of water so you have organizations like the Michigan welfare rights organization in Blue Planet project that went to New York went to the United Nations to make the case that water is a human right they actually got support for this position and that shutting off water which we can't afford to pay their bills is a human rights violation okay now this we know we know this part of the story this party story will always know is like how come so many residents can pay their bills or better how did cities like Flint and Detroit once having the highest paying workers in the country thriving industrial workforce become so poor and so unequal okay and that's the story I want to tell a little bit about so in 1960 Flint had one of the highest per-capita incomes in the United States General Motors was the main employer and workers when strong wages and job protections because of intense union struggles it wasn't a giveaway and also the post-war growth of the US economy during the 1970s as manufacturing processes became more mobile companies like GM Ford left Michigan not entirely but money they're processing manufacturing processes went for cheaper labor they moved him to the u.s. south they moved to Mexico they opened up shop in South Africa they've been there for a while Brazil and through free trade agreements they paid even less in taxes and duties and set up shop in places with few environmental or labor regulations so these shifts both produced and were responses to the global economic crisis of the 1970s a global slump of 74 in particular and also the oil embargo the competition from automakers like Japan and Germany in order to keep GM in Flint because they didn't want GM to leave the city government agreed to give the company huge tax cuts and Thomas immunity and write this down for those of you gonna write about in your class promised immunity from legal consequences worth polluting the river right so you know you can pollute the river we're not gonna find you go ahead and do it you know and so the Flint River that's house number River becomes massively polluted so GM made billions of dollars in profits and where the money goes did it go back into Flint no went to the shareholders rise in the city because that's what capital does not interested in the city the interested shareholders and accumulation and trying to deal do something with that surplus but job still disappeared and it disappeared to outsourcing to reduce shifts through automation and so by nineteen between 1979 and 2010 Flint still lost eighty seven point five percent of its manufacturing jobs okay which is so interesting because again think about all the giveaways that the city and states giving them not to leave and they still losing jobs so with GM but the shares use losing values like many ways many manufacturing firms they turn to Finance namely GM entered the consumer finance market they sold insurance packages they went to banking services and they sold mortgages home equity loans to the members of the public and by 1999 GM was deeply involved in selling subprime mortgages the people who were unlikely to pay them back and the result was predatory lending okay working people overwhelmingly black working people lost their homes as well as their jobs and when the variable rate on the mortgages ballooned in the housing market collapsed and that's would be we talked about 2008 crisis this had a domino effect on the economy the domino effect left cities like Flint with really a fraction of the tax revenue because of course tax revenues generated by property taxes and if the property people not in your house in a property values decline you're not generating much revenue okay so what's worse is those tax breaks given to the very corporations that fleeced the city right and ultimately the city fell deeper into debt okay and they couldn't get back those the tax revenues from from GM so in order to try to come out of debt what do they do the city does what a lot of Gilda Bull cities do they turn to privatizing public assets in order to attract investment capital so public lands are sold off to developers water rates increase and there's a push to privatize water downtown redevelopment schemes are encouraged using public funding public debt and substantial tax breaks more tax breaks to private firms to finance new buildings skyscrapers parking lots and so the thing is that they can't pay back that debt then it's a loss none of these ventures revitalized downtown none of these ventures revitalize the economy it left the city of flint responsible for massive debt and that massive debt became justification for moving the city council aside and putting an emergency manager in place to manage the debt you see like Puerto Rico so continue our story very quickly back in 2014-15 where it was clear that the water wasn't fit for human or animal consumption the City Council tried to reverse a decision the people opposed it but the emergency manager refused what we know now is that Darnell early was actually part of a plan and that plan was to push Detroit into bankruptcy you know to completely privatize the water supply so what do I mean by that so the Detroit water and sewage department was operating with massive huge budget deficits so their bondholders were faced with potential loss of flint as a customers they didn't want loose Flint as a customer so they place greater pressure on delinquent customers to pay off to pay their bill so they were cut off services to people raise rates on Detroiters in Detroit's water agency then offered to cut its rates in half to Flint residents but darn early was like you know no don't cut the rates so he had a chance to cut the rates but then he said we're going to continue to use Flint River supply and then Jerry Ambrose who replaced our no early did the same thing so instead what they did was and you could write this down they signed an agreement with a private firm called yo Lea to handle water management so still coincidence that when Detroit's emergency managers to Detroit Kevyn Orr was pushing to raise water rates and cutting off services to poor families behind the payments he had begun negotiations negotiations with who but Veolia and in fact it was under oars leadership that by nineteen twenty fourteen rather the city had shut off water to over a hundred and fifty thousand residents who are behind in their bills and began making plans to eliminate hundreds of jobs so the shut offs and the layoffs were really a strategy as I suggested before to make the Detroit water and sewage department more attractive for private investors like prepa in Puerto Rico which is the the power grid obviously there's a lot more to his story and I'm not gonna go much more into this but we know that Darnell or Lee's decision was pushing Detroit into bankruptcy in the complete privatization of water supply what we see with Flint therefore are not only the consequences of neoliberal is a ssin of racial capitalism which includes a dismantling of democracy but we also see and they'll be mad at me for saying this but the rise of a black political class that serves as junior partners in these forms of authoritarian governance okay so you got the black face right of authoritarianism all in the name of multiculturalism and diversity see diversity could Jack you out and telling you you gotta be careful so I want to close this on where it's on front but I want to make a transition here so the story of Flynn of course is being replicated in Porto Rico it should remind us I think above all that the authoritarian turn that we thought began in November 2016 was already in process it didn't begin with Trump we have at least four decades of globalization neoliberal attacks on the welfare state on public institutions on the poor covert wars political and cultural backlash against movements for racial and gender justice rampant xenophobia open misogyny attacks and reproductive rights a backlash against diversity multiculturalism all that way before up Trump was elected so what ends up happening is the image of Obama as kind of like the last gasp of liberal democracy ends up obscuring or masking a global shift toward authoritarianism and this is what make him was saying actually professor Francis I'm sorry in her introduction this is a shift that emerged in response in response to capless latest crisis and the mass global resistance movement that emerged in the wake and it's in the wake of them the crisis so some of you may remember this so some of you're old enough to remember 2008 by suddenly may remember 2009 but 2010 was this explosion right remember that in 2011 so that whole period you have yet occupy you have Athens and Madrid and in Sao Paulo in London and West Bengal all these like uprisings that are challenging this sort of the the crisis of global capital so I'm convinced that write this down that the mass of opposition to globalization and to the policies of austerity there's policies designed to solve capitalism's crisis on the backs of workers on the backs of the poor both exposed and hastened the crisis that produced Trump so trumpism wasn't just sort of like you know bad democratic planning you know it wasn't it was so much more than that in other words I you know we could have predicted it you know and some people did had we paid attention okay so I'm very proud to say that I'm sad to say I was giving a talk at Columbia the week before the elections I said no chumps gonna win and people like boo watch people so talk about that sound design film it's don't believe me somewhat humble so to understand this is what I want to exert it closer so to understand this current moment that we're in I I think it's worth revisiting actually I put that picture up there like this this is this is this is the picture I meant to talk about this respect is a last-gasp liberal democracy you know the Obama years you know we could install tech for them because what we're dealing with this so stupid right but there's some terrible things that happened in those days that we kind of forget about but they look good but but then again I'm the people think george w bush's looking good that's what's amazing to me just let's just say reagan's looking good but anyway to go back to the story so the unsent current moment because worth revisiting Stuart Hall who also left us not long ago but soon Hall wrote this book in 1988 called the hard Wilton renewal Thatcherism in crisis of the left is a very very important collection of essays and in this collection he took he was sort of arguing with British Marxists in the Labour Party and they took him to task for failing to grasp the way in which popular consent can be mobilized by incorporating popular discontent discontent matter and then neutralizing it so according to to a halt Thatcherism forged a relationship between free-market liberalism and traditional conservative themes like family nation patriarchy respectability much like Reagan themes that emerged in the context of what hall calls it crisis of national identity and culture precipitated by the unresolved psychic trauma of the end of empire so in other words to make Britain great again really meant to restore the old order of anglo-saxon ISM you know this racialized patriotism in hetero patriarchal Authority and that's still with us it's just in tension in England right now that's still there Hall was riding against a group of Labor Party Marxists who really were unable to see how the working-class had actually been recomposed in the 20th century didn't look the same way as they imagined it it you know and in fact it was not unified it was it couldn't be unified so easy because it wasn't homogeneous it was divided it was divided by race it was divided by gender it was fractured so a lot of the Marxist did not acknowledge this but they see the divides of identity of race and gender for example in sexuality as chimeras of false consciousness and stood Hall was like no they're not you know he said that if we don't actually see the historical trajectory in the formation of identity it makes it impossible to see class rule as like a single class not as a single class rabbit but as an historic block let me just say that again so we he's saying that you know we make the mistake of thinking of class rule as one class ruling another the lower class and the upper class the bourgeoisie no military and he say no class rule is an historic block that can incorporate both elements of finance capital and industrial capital and elements of the working class in other words elements the word class could participate in class rule could actually support the ruling class and have a stake in it and he's saying that you know there's a reason for that some of that stake has to do with things that are considered non objective like race okay so in the u.s. in the 1990s we see similar attacks taking place from the left and how identity politics undermine class politics I was involved in some those debates in those days some of the young professors here were like an elementary school at a time when I was fighting those battles but Todd Gitlin and people like that but that's you know way back in the past some I could say that you know some of the people I argued with and debated with and they're in the sort of early 90s they're dead now and I'm still here which makes me right so actually my grandfather used to say it all the time especially your dad and I'm here so I'm right you know in any case to go back so so not in to see similar attacks and in some ways this attack on you know from the left on how identity politics undermine class politics or its liberal variant which is that you know identity politics undermine a unified American identity based on enlightenment principles of individualism liberty and secularism and lately we've seen the resurrection of this we've seen a resurrection of richard rorty's the 1998 book achieved in our country which the New York Times had a whole thing about and in a recent publication of Mark lillas the once in future liberal now these and similar critiques um I can't go into details about that I argue mistake or confuse ideology that is a categorical opposition to racism sexism homophobia and institutional oppression and marginalization based on difference for identity politics they confuse the two they think that when you actually have a categorical opposition that these forms of oppression that is equal to identity politics okay and they presume that the white working-class operated purely out of a kind of race and gender neutral economic interest but all the other people are driven by their race and their gender and their sexuality so most pundits of course repeat this error they insist that Trump appealed not to white racism but to legitimate working-class populism driven by class anger but if this were true that he would think logically that all working people would be attracted to Trump unless it just smarter you know so you would think well chub would win over all black and brown voters because they are the lowest rungs of the working class and they suffer disproportionately from some of the policies that he claimed claimed to stand up against more than whites during the financial crisis of 2008 instead Trump's victory inspired a wave of kind of you know racist attacks and embolden white nationalists to flaunt their allegiance to the president-elect so for the liberal critics of identity politics the real culprits are people of color the queer people the feminists liberal Democrats who alienated the white working-class driving them into the arms of Donald Trump now they're Liberal Democrats who in turn ated all kinds of people just because they're bankrupt you know but that's different that's a different story and I said it the Democratic rides bankrupt and it has been for some time I didn't mean I didn't realize that literally bankrupt but we found out that there's literally bankrupt and I wrote that a year ago you know it's going to actually be reprinted in Boston review I think tomorrow the next day so check it out they said I bought this piece right after Trump stayed up all night wrote it in my response and apparently a lot of stuff that I said including about Puerto Rico all turn out to be true so I turns out I'm right again what can I say I'm still living you know so they're gonna be print out but but again it instead you know these the people get who was seen as a kind of culprits so the argument is argument that you know identity politics and in all these people of color and you know queer people and feminist stuff are the real sort of problem is an old argument it's inept it's confused in it's very very old the movements associated with identity liberalism as Mark Lilly would have us believe had actually not been obsessed with narrow group identities but what forms of oppression they've been concerned about exclusion they've been fighting marginalization and none of these movements today have been exclusionary black lives matters not exclusionary organization you know they're wide open prison abolitionist is not exclusionary movement for LGBTQ rights immigrant rights reproductive rights struggles against Islamophobia these not exclusive movements they are serious attempts or serious efforts to interrogate sources of persistent inequality the barriers to equal opportunity in the structures and policies that do harm to some groups at the expense of others the irony of course is that the most exclusive organizations are like the Nazis the alright and the Klan I've been trying to get the Klan for years they will not take my application right but I but all those other organizations I could be a part of right so just in closing actually nine I'm gonna put that slide up there that's my last file so just to close to quote Cedric Robinson's friend and colleague delayed Otis Madison he said the right is down the purpose of racism is to control the behavior of white people not black people and you can extend that say black brown for blacks guns and tanks are sufficient ok so the purpose of racism is to control the behavior of why people not black people for blacks guns and tanks are sufficient in other words racism not anti racism constitutes the identity politics that help still Trump's victory the all right raises our Nazi salute classman shoot black demonstrators in front of the police and walk away and for the people of Ferguson and Baltimore and elsewhere guns and tanks are sufficient thank you [Applause]




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