Racism is a Tool to Divide the Working-Class

Under capitalism, a very small number of super-rich owners, called capitalists, control the vast majority of society. Because they are incredibly outnumbered by the working-class, capitalists have always needed many tools to divide and conquer workers. From early on in modernity, racism has been one of these essential tools.

Throughout Latin America, where Catholicism was widespread, racial hierarchy was created in complicated ways. Concepts such as blanqueamiento, limpieza de sangre, and casta were used to classify mixed-race people, often involving complex ancestry charts. While some heroes and saints of the Church opposed these structures of sin, the mercantile capitalists of France, Portugal, and Spain brutally enforced these new concepts. The racial slave trade was the backbone of early capitalism; for example, in the rich sugar colony of Saint-Domingue

White planters quickly embraced racism for their own practical reasons: they hoped that slaves would be more docile if they were “intimately convinced of the white man’s infallibility.” Because people of color outnumbered whites twenty to one, a white colonial author argued, “safety demands that we treat the black race with such contempt that anyone who descends from it, until the sixth generation, must be indelibly stained.” Down the social ladder, “little whites” welcomed the notion that the color of their skin somehow made them superior to mixed-race planters who outranked them in every other aspect. In time, racial theorists developed the pseudoscientific theories white people needed to rationalize their self-interest.

(Philippe Girard, Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life, Chapter 7)

In North America, where Protestantism was dominant, racism was even more barbaric. Race idolatry was so strong that all people of color were sharply divided from “whites,”, according to the one-drop rule. In the British American colonies, especially the South, new slave codes broke down the solidarity between the different groups of the working-class. Meanwhile, waves of “inferior” European immigrants were used for exploited labor before having their ethnicities erased in the melting pot of whiteness.

In the early British American colonies, poor Europeans and Africans initially had little difficulty in getting along:

There are hints that the two despised groups initially saw each other as sharing the same predicament. It was common, for example, for servants and slaves to run away together, steal hogs together, get drunk together… In Bacon’s Rebellion, one of the last groups to surrender was a mixed band of eighty negroes and twenty English servants… The answer to the problem, obvious if unspoken and only gradually recognized, was racism, to separate dangerous free whites from dangerous slave blacks by a screen of racial contempt.

(Edmund S. Morgan, America Slavery, American Freedom, Chapter 16)

Racism is, and has always been, a tool to divide the working-class. Solidarity and anti-racism, with the intercession of our first parents Saints Adam and Eve, must be the tools to unite all people of good will.