Home Education Critical Race Theory and Education: A Marxist Response
The All-Pervasive Existence of Racism in the World
It is tautologous to state that keeping racism at the forefront of analysis reminds us of the extent of racism in the world, and, as I have argued, to fully understand why this is the case, it is necessary to employ the Marxist concept of (xeno-) racialization, and to consider variations in (xeno-) racial- ized (and gendered) local, national and global capitalism and imperialism. Nevertheless, Critical Race Theorists highlight a number of pertinent points, which although needing to be analyzed using the above Marxist concepts, might, without the intervention of Critical Race Theorists, not be given the prominence they deserve. Thus it is important to point out that white-collar and corporate/industrial crime—perpetuated mostly by white people causes more personal injury, death and property loss than street crime, even on a per capita basis (Delgado and Stefancic 2001, p. 43); to remind us about the number of black men in the US incarcerated (more in prison than in college) (Delgado and Stefancic 2001, p. 113) and having the death penalty disproportionately imposed; to highlight racial profiling both in the US and in the UK; to report on how national assessment mechanisms in the UK actually produce inequality for black pupils (convincingly argued by Gillborn 2006; see also Gillborn 2008, discussed in chapter 6 of this volume) even if such facts need relating to racialized capitalism. Critical Race Theorists are right that racism is not abnormal but inherent in the structures of (modern) societies. As Gillborn (2005, pp. 497-8) puts in a discussion about education, ‘race inequity and racism are central features of the education system’, and ‘are not aberrant nor accidental phenomena that will be ironed out in time, but ‘fundamental characteristics of the system’. In the same vein, Ladson-Billings (2006, p. xii) makes an important comment about Hurricane Katrina:
Rather than fixate on the weather catastrophe and the breakdown of the social and political infrastructure, new CRT scholars in education look squarely at the way race was prefigured in the midst of the storm.
This, of course, is true. I would want to add though that, by and large, those who suffered were poor working class black people (Cole 2006). It needs to be pointed out as well, I would argue, that it was racialized capitalism that put them there in the first place. McLaren and Scatamburlo- D’Annibale (2010) also point out how neoliberalism and the ‘free market’ lent itself to the utter destruction witnessed in New Orleans, in particular, lack of proper safeguards prior to the disaster.
Pronouncements by certain right-wing commentators served to mask this fact. As I have argued elsewhere (Cole 2006), the Wall Street Journal published a long editorial comment by Charles Murray, co-author of the aforementioned pseudo-scientific and racist tract, The Bell Curve. Entitled ‘The Hallmark of the Underclass’, conflating class and ‘race’, Murray declared that the hurricane merely demonstrated that ‘the underclass has been growing during all the years that people were ignoring it’ (cited in Van Auken 2005). The images from New Orleans, he wrote, ‘show us the face of the hard problem: those of the looters and thugs, and those of inert women doing nothing to help themselves or their children. They are the underclass’ (cited in ibid.).7 Murray also delved into a favourite topic of right-wing ideologues and pseudo-moralists like himself and Bennett— the ‘illegitimacy rate’ among blacks and ‘low-income groups’ generally (cited in ibid.). As Bill Van Auken concludes, underlining the extent of polarization in the US:
The reality is that Hurricane Katrina exposed the crisis and decay of an entire social system based on private profit and the accumulation of personal wealth at the expense of society as a whole. It likewise laid bare the immense social polarization between wealth and poverty in America—a chasm that has widened over the course of decades. These grim social and class realities have inescapable revolutionary implications that have not been lost on America’s ruling plutocracy. Its response will not be one of renewed social reformism or increased concern for a new generation of ‘forgotten Americans’ On the contrary, it is turning even more sharply to the right, embracing the most noxiously reactionary ideologies and relying ever more heavily on the police and military powers of the state. The resurgence of such fascistic conceptions as those of Bennett and Murray in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation constitutes a grave warning to the American people (ibid.).
The sickness of the US capitalist order is perhaps exemplified by the fact that Bush rejected help with Katrina from both Venezuala and Cuba, the latter with 2000 doctors ready with their equipment to go and save lives (Chavez 2008, cited in Campbell 2008, pp. 59-60).
Thus CRT plays a useful role in keeping the all-pervasive existence of racism in the world firmly at the forefront of their agenda. However, Marxist analysis is needed with this example of the resurgence of fascistic opinions and actions in the wake of Katrina, as with other examples, to analyze and to understand the material and ideological workings of racial- ized capitalism.
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