During UIS visit, researcher examines where class, capitalism and anti-racism intersect
Magubane said that to understand the impact of racism in the United States, people need to understand social class.
“When people say that race and class are equally constitutive of American history and American society today, often … they are criticized for underestimating the role of racism. In this review there is also a misunderstanding of what people mean when they say class. Usually, as understood, class is like an attributive attribute,” Magubane said.
Magubane said this critique does not include class analysis, which is the examination of the social relations of production in a particular society.
When analyzing the problem of inequality, Magubane said people need to learn that class dynamics have not only fueled racism but also anti-racism for decades. Within the argument of anti-racism, there is disagreement.
“Absent an understanding of history, we can’t really critically interrogate these current efforts to achieve racial equality.”
Zine Magubane, professor at Boston College
“Often things are framed in these bipolar terms. ‘All the blacks were on one side, [and] all the whites were on one another. What I hope people really understand is that within African Americans all shrewdly working on anti-racism, there were these very heated disagreements,” Magubane said. “These disagreements refer to the class component of the agenda they were advancing. If people can understand that it worked in the past, they can engage more critically with those dynamics in the present.
In the development of the American capitalist system that shapes class dynamics today, Magubane said the working class primarily faced aggression and discrimination. An example of this is the housing and mortgage bubble of the early 2000s, which caused many Americans to lose their homes.
Prior to the mortgage crisis, Magubane said African Americans had lower homeownership rates – it was one of the cornerstones of wealth accumulation in the United States. was sometimes catastrophic.
Here, Magubane said a certain level of anti-racism can be recognized because African Americans were more likely to be offered these predatory loans.
“However, the solution offered again was not to say that housing should not be commodified. Rather, it was to examine discriminatory attitudes or evidence, once again, of racism being that overriding thing ingrained in America’s DNA and so on,” Magubane said. “So indeed what would have led to more equality within our society and an equal distribution of racial wealth, to use this terrible expression, would have been the decommodification of housing.”
Another example of modern discrimination that allows the capitalist system to thrive, addressed by Magubane, is the racial wealth gap and the built-in authorization of the notion of wealth.
“The biggest problem is that wealth is unequal rather than we live in a society based on wealth to secure the basic necessities of life: food, housing, housing, education,” Magubane said.
To understand the makeup of American history and modern capitalism, Magubane said people need to become more informed and examine with critical and observant scrutiny the ethics of anti-racism.
“The threat to capitalism was in some ways seen as even more threatening than the possibility of racial equality within an outmoded capitalist system…The elements of this struggle that were more closely aligned with challenging capitalism have experienced far more terror and active attempts to destroy them than those movements—again, from the Civil War era, we can see in civil rights—than those elements that offered a vision of racial equality which still maintained a capitalist system,” Magubane said.
Magubane said the easiest anti-racism elements to examine with this review are diversity and inclusion efforts and even aspects of the Black Lives Matter agenda, for example.
“Absent an understanding of history, we can’t really critically interrogate these current efforts to achieve racial equality,” Magubane said.
Magubane will discuss the role of racism in American society during his lecture, “The Uses and Abuses of Jim Crow: Contemporary Race Theory and the Problem of History.” The conference is available via Zoom at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, February 28. It is sponsored by the Department of History and African American Studies program at Illinois State University.