capitalism and slavery

In the complex tapestry of economic systems, capitalism has emerged as a dominant force, driven by the pursuit of wealth and prosperity. However, for black Americans, the descendants of a population that endured the horrors of slavery, there exists a paradoxical relationship with a system that, at its roots, shares historical ties with their ancestors’ oppression. This article delves into the contradictions that arise when individuals from this community actively support a capitalist system, born from the very idea of slavery.

The Historical Roots:

Capitalism, as an economic system, has its roots intertwined with the exploitation of labor, often reminiscent of the institution of slavery. The transatlantic slave trade, a dark chapter in history, played a crucial role in shaping the economic foundations of the United States. The exploitation of black labor not only laid the groundwork for the nation’s economic prosperity but also perpetuated deep-seated racial inequalities.

The Paradox of Support:

The question arises: why do some black Americans support a system that has historical connections to their ancestors’ suffering? Is it a form of Syndrom of Stockholm? Is it some “Uncle Tomism”. The answer lies in the intricacies of modern capitalism, where individuals may perceive (or may be endoctrinated to perceive) economic opportunities and upward mobility as pathways to escape systemic inequalities. However, this support is not without contradictions.

The Wage Slavery Analogy:

Capitalism, while significantly different from the brutal institution of chattel slavery, has been criticized for perpetuating a form of “wage slavery.” In this context, the workforce is metaphorically bound to their employers, dependent on wages for survival. The historical exploitation of black labor during slavery has, in a sense, evolved into a more subtle but systemic economic inequality.

Systemic Racism and Economic Disparities:

Despite legal strides towards equality, systemic racism continues to manifest itself within the capitalist structure. Black Americans face persistent disparities in employment, wages, and access to economic opportunities. The historical legacy of slavery has left an indelible mark on the economic landscape, contributing to a cycle of disadvantage for black communities.

The Illusion of Meritocracy:

Capitalism often champions the idea of meritocracy, where success is ostensibly based on individual effort and talent. However, the reality is more nuanced, with structural barriers disproportionately affecting black individuals. The illusion of a level playing field within capitalism further complicates the paradox of supporting a system that seemingly perpetuates inequality. Besides the fact that meritocracy works only during one generation and destroys itself by providing to the next generation the necessary wealth to avoid to strive in order to succeed…

Education as a Barrier to Empowerment:

An additional layer to the paradoxical relationship between black Americans and capitalism is the systemic inadequacies within the education system. The disparities in educational opportunities, often rooted in historical injustices, contribute to a lack of global knowledge and hinder the ability to critically compare economic systems. While black Americans may find themselves at the same level of knowledge as their white counterparts due to these educational gaps, the consequence is a shared limitation in understanding the broader implications of the economic models they support.

The importance of education in fostering informed citizenship cannot be overstated. A comprehensive education equips individuals with the tools to critically evaluate different economic systems, recognizing their historical contexts and contemporary implications. Unfortunately, systemic inequalities persist within the educational landscape, resulting in limited access to quality education for many black Americans.

Patriotism, while a powerful force fostering national pride, can sometimes be a barrier to critical self-reflection. The reluctance to challenge prevailing economic ideologies may stem from a sense of loyalty to the established order. However, true empowerment lies in transcending these boundaries, encouraging an open dialogue that includes diverse perspectives and experiences.

Addressing the systemic shortcomings in the education system is crucial for dismantling the barriers to empowerment. By fostering a curriculum that encompasses a global understanding of economic structures, individuals can make more informed decisions about the systems they support. Overcoming these educational disparities will not only contribute to a more knowledgeable citizenry but also empower communities to actively shape and participate in economic discussions, moving beyond the limitations imposed by a lack of comparative knowledge. Said in other words, in education matters, black Americans aim to have the same privileges as their white counterparts instead of seeing those privileges as a lie, as they are mostly restricted to a narrow view. At the same time, maybe white people black to think that the privileges they have are the real values, so that black people do not change the rules of the game.

The paradox of black Americans supporting capitalism, a system rooted in historical ties to slavery, is a multifaceted issue. While capitalism offers avenues for individual success, it also harbors systemic inequalities that disproportionately impact black communities. Recognizing and addressing these contradictions is essential for fostering a more equitable economic system that transcends the historical legacies of exploitation. Perhaps the biggest issue lies in being tethered to the terminology of capitalism, prompting a need to explore models that align more closely with the aspirations of US black communities—models that prioritize not only economic prosperity but also social and financial justice.

Jean-Marc Alma-Charlery
Owner of

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