[T]he fact that corporations put "Black Lives Matter" on their websites and establishment Democrats make a show of taking a knee are indications that significant social changes have taken place, that on average our society has come to view racism as something to be criticized and rejected rather than proud ly proclaimed and embraced, and so the rulers of our society are adapting to this change.
But actually, there is no special quality of antiracism which makes it susceptible t o this usage. Capital has long celebrated the "dignity of labor" and working class identity, because it requires the working class for its processes of production and a ccumulation. It has thus adapted to a wide range of struggles and contestations, in fact incorporating them into the system as a driver of its development.
Nevertheless, few critics of antiracism argue that because politicians and corporations make tokenizing celebrations of essential workers, the demands and struggles of essential workers are inherently compatible with capitalism. This is the difference between class as the structural antagonism of capitalist society and class as an identitarian category, which would lead to a program of fairness and representation for the working class. Part of the reason that it has become difficult to distinguish between these two perspectives is that class struggle has been beaten back by neoliberalism, so it is tempting to see it as a category that leads intrinsically in a universal and oppositional direction. [...]
By assuming that different rules apply to movements against racism −− that they're uniquely compatible with capitalism while labor movements aren't −− it [Adolph Reed's critique of antiracism] reproduces the logic of race as a "special case," which sees it as something free-floating, immaterial, and separate from class. By positing class politics as a self-sufficient alter native to antiracism, it flattens the real contradictions and challenges of class organization. [...]
Discussions of this question are usually entirely instrumental to a particular political position: if you think antiracist movements are a distraction from class, or if you think that antiracist movements are inherently anticapitalist, you formulate an analysis which rationalizes your position. [...]
My view is that we should not engage in this kind of instrumental theorizing, but also that we should avoid grand, totalizing theories of race. It is very risky to come up with general theories of race, a concept of race that would apply across time and space. The reason for this quite simply is that if we turn race into a transhistorical category we are constantly veering on the edge of collapsing into racial ideology itself, into the idea that there are different groups in the human species whose physical characteristics correspond to different cultures, propensities, and so on. This conception of race is pseudoscience and it is false. It is nevertheless clear that people have been divided into different groups, socially rather than naturally, according to physical characteristics which are arbitrary (that is, they do not intrinsically correspond to social and cultural difference), but nevertheless become quite meaningful.
The discussion thus becomes a little confusing, because on the one hand race is "false" − it is a pseudoscientific way of understanding human variation − while at the same time race is "real" in the sense that people really have been socially categorized according to their arbitrary physical characteristics in ways that have determined, for example, whether they were considered citizens or property. [...]
I do not subscribe to the views, constantly attributed to me, that we should return to a "radical identity politics," or that we have to "do both" class politics and identity politics, or that we should be "intersectional" socialists, or that we should generate a "synthesis" of Marxism and identity politics. What I showed in my book is that historical movements against racism embraced anti-capitalist positions, and I argued that those who are mobilized to act politically against racism today should also join the project of working to overturn capitalism. [...]
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