Anti-Racism Call to Action: The Need for Radical Change to Address Racial and Economic Inequality
Updated: Mar 19, 2022
Those of us that have been discriminated against and oppressed since we were born due to socially constructed notions of gender, race, and ethnicity—among other physical and mental traits relegated as undesirable or inconvenient by those in power—have come to understand early on that “freedom is a constant struggle,” as accurately proclaimed by political activist Angela Y. Davis. However, this appalling reality of society should never have existed. The path forward must include centering the voices of historically marginalized people in collective, transnational, and radical efforts across individual and institutional levels to secure a more just society.
Our goal towards a more inclusive society should not end at reducing racial and economic inequality. The aim should prioritize eliminating racial, economic, and social inequity. Collective efforts to assuage the living conditions of marginalized people need to distribute economic and political support based on the needs and circumstances of each person, rather than distributing support uniformly, to provide a fair chance of succeeding in society and living a fruitful life. Furthermore, our efforts will require us to fully acknowledge that the barriers marginalized people face are intersectional and systemic.
Over the years, various people around the world have worked to dismantle systems of oppression through education, research, and political activism. Angela Davis reminds us time and time again that true progress happens when oppressed people unite—within and across continents—to combat and end oppressive systems that are most unwilling to change. It was the mass movements of abolition that led to the demolition of slavery, segregation, and gender discrimination. Although, traces of these oppressions persist to this day due to the ill-founded acceptance of moderate progress which actually upholds oppressive systems and continues to disenfranchise many.
The movements witnessed during the 1800s lost traction when people disregarded the intersectionality of gender, race, and class. The early stages of the movement for women’s political rights focused solely on improving the livelihoods of middle-class white women while discounting the harsh reality experienced by the working class, Black women, and Black men. The early movement failed to grasp the inseparability between issues affecting those from a lower social class and racialized identity. People continue to fail today when they erroneously categorize issues of gender, race, and class as distinct from one another. In her reiteration of Angelina Grimke’s message, Angela Davis stresses “that the democratic struggles of the times—especially the fight for women’s equality—could be most effectively waged in association with the struggle for Black Liberation.” A united front that is steadfast in their demands for social and political change will be more sustainable than disparate efforts that accede to compromises.
Movements need to be disruptive to fasten change. Martin Luther King Jr. asserted that “the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice…” A people that are unwavering in their pursuit to end their suffering have the power to rebuild society in their image by compelling their governments to enact policies that protect freedoms. Malcolm X rightly stated, “It’s the hinge that squeaks that gets the grease.” In other words, “[…] if you want something, you had better make some noise.” In this day and age, we cannot justify being passive in the face of adversity and denigration of our people. Passivity is as inhumane as the active harm being done by racist and xenophobic perpetrators.
Today, we need to put into the forefront the issues of inequity across healthcare, education, and the justice system that are results of society’s increasing dependency on a capitalist framework that prioritizes materialism and profits over the well-being of people. Or better yet, we need to tackle the disease of capitalism itself rather than simply treating its symptoms. Capitalism exploits people. It does not function to serve the working class—which comprises the majority of people in society. Those that are monetarily privileged use capitalism as a tool to further oppress and disposes people that have been historically marginalized. Two discriminatory practices that were widely used in the United States include those in which banks or lenders refused services to people of color and others of minority status because they lived in areas that were of “financial risk” (redlining) and the manipulation of electoral constituency boundaries to disenfranchise a diverse faction of people including women, racialized groups, and people from lower socioeconomic classes (gerrymandering). Across the world capitalism has undoubtedly given power to practices that promote imperialism and fascism to subjugate the masses. Only transnational unity and solidarity amongst oppressed people will prevail in reconstructing a better society without authoritarian and unjust systems.
The immediate steps we need to take as a society comprise participating in the democratic process with increased forcefulness to create alternatives to the neocolonialist co-optation of governing foisted upon us. We need to hold those in positions with the power to ratify change accountable for their destructive actions and inactions. When they refuse to make the necessary changes for the betterment of the oppressed and the rest of society, it is our responsibility to reclaim our collective power by electing officials whose top priority is to serve the people and not the institutions. Psychological research has shown that legislation passed “prematurely” at the federal level, granting a subgroup of people legal rights, had the power to influence individual attitudes and reestablish social norms of acceptance for those that were initially resistant. Enacting anti-racist policies that protect the freedoms of the oppressed and offer various forms of reparations will restructure foundations at the systemic level and in turn will reshape how people function at the individual level. To do this effectively we will need to form a global community with our siblings across the seas. In the wise words of authors bell hooks and M. Scott Peck, “Communities sustain life […]” and “In and through community lies the salvation of the world.”
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