Last Saturday the people of Kansas City made the call to step into Main Street. The call was not made by PYO, not the first time nor the second time, but members of our organization were involved in taking the street. We were at the peoples back, answering the call and carrying our banner proudly to the frontlines. We will always be at the peoples back when the call is made. In recent days, however, it’s been made clear that The Kansas City Star – the local newspaper – does not have the people’s back. To those of us who were at the protest, watching Mayor Sly James, KCPD Chief Forte, and the Star try to make sense of the events has been like watching an episode of the Twilight Zone.
The chairperson of the Progressive Youth Organization, Andrés, was invited to speak at Longview Community College surrounding the issue of segregation. As a lifelong resident of Kansas City, in a segregated, now rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, our comrade gives an analysis of segregation as an institution of racism and ties it with the capitalist mode of production. He also comments briefly on the role Kansas City played in segregating America’s cities and how even after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act Kansas City continued and continues to remain a very segregated city. The video of the lecture is provided as well as the presentation paper to go along with it.
The Roots of RacismSo to begin we should go back to the roots of segregation which is a form of institutional racism. This begs a chicken and the egg question of which came first? Well when we talk of how people perceived one another some groups of people were viewed as being lower than others we see this in how the Romans and Greeks would call non-Romans and non-Greeks “Barbarian”. We see even in the Aztec world in which the slur for nomadic peoples was “chichimeca” or dog-speaker. People had a conception of prejudice of other people throughout millenia, there was a semblance of superiority even, but the institutional aspect of this prejudice taking the form of laws, the social division of labor based on race and nation only come about under capitalism. It would not be wrong to say then that we know what came first in this question. The chicken is capitalism, a capitalism which developed rapidly in the post-feudal, post-Black death age of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. We should reflect upon just how Western capitalism got it’s first start-up that is it’s first huge surges of capital and wealth, in the process in which Karl Marx called “the primitive accumulation” which he notes in his volume Capital:
The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation. . . . [They all] depend in part on brute force, e.g., the colonial system. But, they all employ the power of the State, the concentrated and organised force of society, to hasten, hot-house fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode . . . . [C]apital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt. Continue reading