The Contested Politics of Racial Capitalism in Táíwò and Kendi

(Táíwò photo credit to Jared Rodriguez. Kendi photo credit to Stephen Voss.)

With the recent publication of his book Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else), Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò is becoming a leading thinker of the theory of racial capitalism. Since the publication of his two best-selling and award winning books, Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi has become the most prominent thinker on race in the US today. Kendi has also recently adopted the concept of racial capitalism to frame his social analysis.

Táíwò and Kendi share a commitment to careful investigation of the dynamics and interrelations of race and class, but in other ways they have sharply contrasting and even opposing politics. Not for the sake of labeling theorists as good and bad nor for trying to draw sharp lines around who belongs in contested political spaces, but for the sake of clearly defining political positions that shape efforts towards liberation, the contours of these contrasting and opposing politics are worth inquiring into.

The hotly debated tradition of racial capitalism theory and the renewed attention to race and class in contemporary social movements provide ample impetus for undertaking an investigative journey through the class politics of Táíwò and Kendi. Táíwò provides analytical tools for discerning the kind of class divides that Kendi tries to harmonize. Táíwò also happens to discuss many of the same historical figures that Kendi does, which enables an ideal opportunity to clearly compare and contrast their diverging class analyses. After briefly reviewing Táíwò’s book and then situating Táíwò’s class politics within the current political landscape, I use his work to pivot towards Kendi and then launch into a textual analysis of Kendi’s class politics.

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Public K12 Education as a Capitalist Industry: A Political Guide for Radical Educators and Organizers

Introduction

When I look into the face of a student, I see a human face. As an educator in schools there’s a feeling of responsibility that pulls on me to preserve their humanity, partly by my own efforts to make things fair and keep them safe in school and partly by helping them learn the skills to make things fair and keep themselves safe when they enter the “real” world. How to be faithful to the whole of a child’s current being and future potential is the daunting task all educators face. Even under perfect conditions this task is difficult enough. Under the conditions of the education system we find ourselves in this task is all too often impossible.

The multitude of problems in the school system leads any caring educator to ask larger questions about why things are the way they are. “Life’s not fair” is one answer, one we tell ourselves as often as we tell our students. If we don’t see agency in ourselves or in others, accepting the problems of the existing world as inevitable can be the first step in hardening ourselves and others as a strategy for mental and biological survival. “Life’s not fair, but…” accepts the world as it is in the present but makes space for the possibility of the world to be changed in the future.

When an educator looks a student in the eye, what about their economic relationship shapes what the educator sees? The educator is paid to be there and the student is compelled to be there to learn skills and get credentials that they’ll need later to get a job. These are partly class relations, relations of people in specific economic positions who encounter each other in the context of larger economic systems.

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