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Emerging consciousness of racism, capitalism, sexism, and class allows us to better understand the difference between the African American workers and the white man in a capitalistic workforce. Angela Davis, an African American activist, writer, and educator ignited the rise in consciousness in 1968 in part as a response to Martin Luther King’s assassination. How does a race recapture their identity when they have been oppressed, colonized, enslaved, and the focus of the civil rights movements? Poems and songs tell stories about identity and the struggles recanting moments in time that shape the oppressed. The Black American worker faces existential crises of identity in the workplace, Marxism fails to notice a racist work environment and the prejudices of a White American-dominated society as a whole.
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Major political, economic, and social norms spanning hundreds of years has affected African Americans because of inflicted oppression in a white-dominant capitalistic society. As a result, Black existentialism struggles for identity, perhaps if one examines the opportunities blacks have in society versus those of the advantaged whites these struggles can be defined. It is important to understand the difference between liberation and identity. African Americans may have been liberated from slavery and post-colonialism; however, they are faced with the challenges of understanding their own identity within society. Marxism fails to provide Black workers with their own identity as they face a multitude of challenges when defining their existential identities in post-colonial American society. Karl Marx said that “Labor in the white skin can never free itself as long as labor in the black skin is branded.”
(The Black Communist, Socialist movement was intended to be the nucleus of strength for all who are oppressed. However, the capitalists would oppose organized labor for fear that power would jeopardize the elite in the Capitalistic society. In the opinion of this author which is based on the many scholarly articles, without the hard work of the oppressed, industries would not have flourished and the wealth of the few would not have materialized.
Developing a consciousness creates a connection to understanding the signification of a culture. Signification is making a connection with meaning, why it is important to have consciousness and agency towards believing that one can hold power. The construction of black identity encounters questioning the Black identity based on recognition of racism and oppression. Black existentialism exists as a result of struggles and inequities, which have impacted the black community. Problems like slavery, racial stereotypes, intergenerational and mass incarceration, poor legal representation, has caused problems throughout history. Thus making it difficult for African Americans to find purpose and courage to organize and elicit change.
One may begin to focus on strong positive identity exploring the historical roots of African Americans before colonialism and slavery. This focus may have an impact on the shaping of the existential crisis and identity African Americans experience today. The black community suffered when finding their place in society. After slavery and post-colonialism, the representation of Blacks in America could not escape stereotypical representation. The lack of acceptance in the public domain for both men and women of color makes gainful employment difficult.
However, movements that stem from victories like Brown vs. Board of Education may eradicate educational segregation but changing the racial discriminatory mindset of society is a slow process. The Black Panther movement created a sense of hope and empowerment for the black community and activists like Angela Davis, who identified with Communism, worked to promote a classless society, ending capitalism and leading to a society without oppression based on race, gender, wealth, and/or religion. The Black community continued to struggle to find gainful employment, financial independence or jobs that do not discriminate.
More than half of the black population were domestic servants and have the highest rate of unemployment. Angela Davis cited the works of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx stated that before private property existed sexual inequality did not exist either. She also stated that when black women were slaves they did equal work to their male counterparts and as a result, they did not experience sexual dominance. However, white females who lived in a patriarchal construct experienced male sexual dominance and their jobs as a housewife were subordinate. Furthermore, prior to the industrial revolution, women’s work was complimentary (harvesting food, making cloth, candles), rather than hierarchical. (Davis) One may then conclude that capitalism perpetuated oppression.
Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis examines the housework and the working class. Charlotte Gilman redefined domestic work in 1903 as a grade of work. One of which black women did not suffer from the psychological impact that white women experienced. Once free Black women used their strength to work outside the home to provide for their families and were not afforded the reliance of their husbands for economic stability. Black women are not afforded the same opportunities and the majority did not have the opportunity to earn an income that supported their families. Angela Davis discusses how black women suffer from not only their placement in society but, sexual inequality at home and at work as well as the importance of being part of a community.
As a result, self-reliance qualities take shape. A wage for women movement takes place in ‘74 originating in Italy. The argument is that the work of a housewife which includes taking care of their husband and children generated collateral benefits of increased output for their husband’s employer and her children’s future employer. Interestingly, in South Africa women who are unemployed are banned from distracting their husbands’ productivity. Davis expressed, “… a guaranteed annual income for all,” as an interim solution for jobs that provide financial independence coupled with the need for affordable childcare.
Black women historically make up a large percentage of the domestic workers, earning modest incomes, being surrogate parent at their own children’s expense and challenges to their identity. Questioning what and who they are and why they are important if they do not have the opportunity for economic freedom. If the premise of having a home and its family members taken care of by a “housewife” leads to greater wealth, than the highbred domestic “housewife” is at a greater economic disadvantage. The domestic laborer “carries a double burden,” taking care of someone else’s household as well as their own. Due to a capitalist economy, finding a way to make a living from housework, as the wages are grossly underpaid, is challenging.
A May 25, 2018, Channel 4 Television interview with Angela Davis examines her ideas on feminism, communism and what it was like to be a Black Panther during the time of the civil rights consciousness in 1968 and today. Angela Davis discusses her idea of the growth of consciousness and interconnectivity between social issues and how feminism and race were no longer analyzed mono categorically. Davis stated, “Struggles do not emerge spontaneously they have a connection to what came before and it’s important that younger people recognize that connection with the historical radicalism.” (Davis, 12:1-12:34) She goes on to say,
“Relationship between an individual who might imagine herself, or himself, or their self, separately from communities, from movements, from organizations whereas the solidarities I’m speaking about were generated from, community to community; this era needs to combat the individualization effect that is a direct result of global capitalism and the neoliberal ideology of this period.” (Davis, 18:50-19:20) Davis also shares that individualism is a major challenge of this era. In the interview, she described the importance of understanding one’s relationship by connecting with other people in solidarity to create a movement in a time when individuality is a product of technology and leads to an absence of “affinity.”
Davis discusses one of the major differences between 1968 and today is the technological revolution. The future depends on the younger generation to make sense of identity, ask questions and challenge the status quo. One should look at history in a way so that we grow from what Davis calls the fruits of the struggles for which the recent movements: Black Lives Matter and Me2 have blossomed. Interestingly, she stated that history never repeats itself. However, one may look at the destruction racism evokes, oppression and genocide and wonder how could this still be happening. Hence, the importance of solidarity and speaking out for civil rights and humanity must use an intersectional approach.
Movements are not the only way in which awareness of the oppressed is raised; music, poetry, as well as language, contribute to the shape of the black man. Signifying the Black identity underlies the message of identity and challenges the power portrayed in stories and poems told. For example, Sinking of the Titanic resonates as an example of Supremacy oppression, telling Shine, to “get his black self down there,” as the Titanic was sinking. However, with the disregard for his life and the quest for his own survival, he tells the fishes no matter the size or bribes that he will find land and they will find heaven. Ironically, when the tides turn and the white man needs to be saved,
Shine cannot be bought and he saves himself. On the other hand, Shine and the Titanic demonstrate the survival of the fittest, mocking white supremacy while women are willing to use their sexuality for their own survival. However, at any other time, such a suggestion would have landed the black man in jail. Shine is not respected when he shares the fate of the drowning ship it’s only when the affluent white man feels his own threat that he tries to undo oppression but it’s too late.
The difference between African American workers and white people in the capitalist workforce.. (2021, Nov 29).
Retrieved March 21, 2023 , from
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