America was built on capitalism – and for the elite it still works in their favor. However, Black people have been less fortunate capitalizing in the nation’s capitalistic society. (See what we did there?) As a result, over the years many Black leaders and celebrities have called out the institution for its exploitation of Black Americans and other underrepresented groups over the years. Here are 8 Black leaders’ quotes on capitalism, with an honorable mention from an Iranian author on the subject.
“We don’t think you fight fire with fire best ; we think you fight fire with water best. We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism. We’re stood up and said we’re not going to fight reactionary pigs and reactionary state’s attorneys like this and reactionary state’s attorneys like Hanrahan with any other reactions on our part. We’re going to fight their reactions with all of us people getting together and having an international proletarian revolution.”
“Racism is intricately linked with capitalism and I think it’s a mistake to assume that we can combat racism by leaving capitalism in place,” Angela Davis said during an interview with Democracy Now. “Marx pointed out what he called primitive accumulation, capital doesn’t just appear from nowhere; the original capital was provided by the labor of slaves. The industrial revolution, which pivoted around the production of capital, was enabled by slave labor in the U.S. So I am convinced that the ultimate eradication of racism is going to require us to move towards a more socialist organization of our economies, of our other institutions.”
“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness,” Dr. King said.
“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism,” King once told his staff.
“It’s too much money here. I mean nobody should be hitting lotto for $36 million and we got people starving in the streets,” a 21-year-old Tupac said during his first interview as a solo artist with MTV. “That is not idealistic that’s just real, that’s just stupid. … There’s no way that these people should own planes and there are people that don’t have houses, apartments, shacks, drawers, pants … we all know how hard it is and it’s not about if you’re good or you’re bad … it just means he don’t got. I mean can you imagine somebody having $32 million dollars and this person has nothing and you can sleep.”
“You can’t have capitalism without racism” Malcolm X once said at a rally. He reiterated the idea when he said: “You can’t operate a capitalistic system unless you are vulturistic (…) You show me a capitalist, I’ll show you a bloodsucker.”
“I think that the Black community can do a better job of keeping the dollar in our ecosystem longer … from top to bottom, the ecosystem from a dollar perspective stayed black. Hence, we had a true black working class, a true black middle class, [and] we could send kids off to college,” Killer Mike said on his Netflix show “Trigger Warning.”
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“Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction,” DuBois said.
“I think we’ve become more and more undeniable that we have overwhelming evidence of the massive failure of the American capitalist system, hand in hand with the feeble democratic experiment called the USA,” Cornell West said during an interview. “What I mean by that is, the 3 pillars: financialization of capitalism has led towards not just Wall Street’s greed, but a level of unaccountability of capitalists, of economic elites …”
“Carter did it, Reagan did it, Clinton did it, Obama did it, [and] Trump is doing it now with Opportunity Zones,” Baradaran told The Nation. “Opportunity Zones is Black capitalism. It’s been denuded of the word ‘Black,’ but it’s essentially the same idea.”
“We’re pretending like we’re helping distressed communities through capital, but it’s actually not capital for the communities themselves. It is development incentives. It is rich private-equity firms and hedge funds getting tax incentives to do stuff, build stuff, and to create stuff in these distressed communities. They get the upside, and they’re protected from the downside because they are going to get tax credits. That is an extension of Nixon’s brilliant decoy,” she continued.
“It looks like we’re helping, but we’re actually not,” Baradaran said. “All it does is prop up a few Black businesses to sort of allow for the segregated market to continue breeding inequality.”