Don't Let Blackwashing Save the Investor Class

Johnson, Cedric
Publisher:  Jacobin
Year Published:  2020
Resource Type:  Pamphlet
Cx Number:  CX24392

I could care less about these memorials to slavery and empire. Good riddance. The demonstrators have reinvigorated a process of recognition and historical consciousness that is long overdue, but their chosen targets also reflect a relative powerlessness in the face of contemporary forces. The gestural politics of the moment, reflected in terms like "white skin privilege" and "post-traumatic slavery disorder" have been heartily embraced by the investor class precisely because they deflect from the actual corporate decisions that justify exploitation, rationalize obsolescence and waste, and reproduce inequality all in pursuit of profit.



While antiracist protesters were tough on long-dead oppressors, these same protests have delivered a public relations windfall for the living investor class. Within weeks, corporations pledged upward of $2 billion dollars to various antiracist initiatives and organizations.

Once we get past the militancy and millennial cultural aspects, the Black Lives Matter slogan is at heart a reassertion of civil rights liberalism and a basic plea for equal protection before the law.

With the interventions of capitalists, we have witnessed an intensive campaign of blackwashing, akin to greenwashing, that is, the adoption of the slogans, mantras, and ethics of racial liberalism in ways that do not threaten fundamental commitments to exploitation. These forms of antiracism are simply about firms trying to expand their market share through expressions of care and concern. Perhaps most important, the corporate embrace of Black Lives Matter has deflected public attention away from the roiling labor protests of essential workers — many of them black ­— against these same companies during the shelter-in-place orders.

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