How the discourse of “racial inequalities” serves capitalism

It is fashionable in contemporary media and political circles in the UK to racialize everything. I notice an endless stream of articles in the media – usually based on reports from various charities – which highlight some way in which Black people (elevated now to a capital B) are disadvantaged. The key idea is that if on any metric there is a disparity between black and white people this is due to ‘structural inequality’ or racial discrimination. The assumption is automatic and no one ever looks for an alternative explanation.

This is an example. Apparently the Labour party has commissioned research which shows that Black people have less savings than white people. The Labour spokesperson says: “Instead of confronting the racial inequalities in health, housing and the workplace exposed by the Lawrence Review, the Conservatives are questioning whether structural racism even exists”.

Of course; race may have nothing whatsoever to do with this. Black and ethnic minority people, for a whole host of reasons, are (I think) on average less rich than white people – thus one would expect them to have less savings. I don’t know if the study shows that if this is controlled for they still have less savings. (Based on the Independent report it doesn’t seem to). If so – that still wouldn’t establish “racial inequalities”. Maybe they just choose to save less.

It seems to me that this constant banging on about race is rather odd. It involves a constant highlighting of racial difference. (Hence the capital B). I don’t fully understand the drivers but I suspect it is really a distraction tactic. ‘Race’ is an identify issue not a political or economic issue. One can campaign ferociously for “racial equality”, appear to be at the forefront of progressive politics, but present no challenge at all to capitalism and to its basic structures of exploitation. In fact, the opposite; campaigns of these kinds cement capitalism by sidestepping the concrete issues of economic and political exploitation and injustice in favour of metrics about visible characteristics – which are in fact something capitalism is quite happy to talk about and even finds beneficial. (Removing actual barriers which do exist against black and ethnic minority people will increase overall productivity). It is in fact a craven furthering of capitalist finance-power dressed up as radical politics.

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer