Racism as Global Divide

If one studies statistics of world poverty and takes account of racial identity, the obvious conclusion is that most of the world’s poor are non-Caucasian and most of the world’s rich are Caucasian. Europe and North America control the vast majority of the world’s wealth, while Africa, Latin America, and Asia control tiny fractions of wealth. The main exception is China, but compared to the Euro-American bloc, China is still far down the list of wealthy countries.

Africa is still the poorest continent on Earth, and this is certainly not an accident. The twin projects of the slave trade and colonialism were aimed at making this continent subordinate to Euro-American global domination. Despite decades of decolonization and independence for many African nations, this continent still suffers the most from global inequality.

Cornel West rightly challenges the view that we can reduce race to economic or class issues. He maintains that racist social practices “are best understood and explained not only or primarily by locating them within modes of production, but also by situating them within the cultural traditions of civilizations.” (“Race and Social Theory” from Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America, 1993.) He identifies three modes of cultural racism: Judeo-Christian, Scientific-rational, and psychosexual.

From Judeo-Christian culture, a racist discourse arose that is focused on blackness as synonymous with chaos and paganism. From scientific-rational culture, an intellectual elitism that disdains subjectivity and privileges a search for truth detached from the struggles of both everyday life and political power. The psychosexual aversion to non-white persons is a complex subconscious disposition of neurotic fears that blacks are both dirty, disgusting, and rapacious sexual predators.

The cultural discourses of racism have operated through Anglo-European history in its rise to global supremacy and have come to fundamentally shape its institutions. Our economics, education, and politics are shot through with a cohesive repressive, dominative, and exploitative consciousness and praxis. While this reality has been challenged both by people of color and their caucasian allies, the mountain of racism has proven itself indomitable thus far.

The struggle continues, but with a reasonable hope. The Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the U.S. 1960s were instrumental and opening a space in Caucasian society for greater freedom for people of color. Racism is fundamentally at odds with the authentic potential of human freedom and equality.

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