Coleman Hughes Reviews Ibram Kendi on “Anti-Racism” and Capitalism

From an excellent review of How to Be an Antiracist by Coleman Hughes:

“Capitalism is essentially racist,” Kendi proclaims, and “racism is essentially capitalist.” To test this claim, a careful thinker might compare racism in capitalist countries with racism in socialist/Communist ones; or he might compare racism in the private sector with racism in the public sector. Kendi does neither. Instead, he presents the link between capitalism and racism as self-evidently true: “Since the dawn of racial capitalism, when were markets level playing fields? . . . . When could Black people compete equally with White people?” Kendi asks, implying that the answer is “never.”

I can think of several historical examples in which capitalism inspired anti-racism. The most famous is the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case, when a profit-hungry railroad company––upset that legally mandated segregation meant adding costly train cars––teamed up with a civil rights group to challenge racial segregation. Nor was that case unique. Privately owned bus and trolley companies in the Jim Crow South “frequently resisted segregation” because “separate cars and sections” were “too expensive,” according to one scholarly paper on the subject.

A lesser known example is the South African housing market under Apartheid. Though landlords in whites-only areas were legally barred from renting to nonwhites, vacancies made discrimination against non-white tenants costly. As a result, white landlords often ignored the law. In his book South Africa’s War on Capitalism, economist Walter Williams notes that at least one “whites-only” district was in fact comprised of a majority of nonwhites.

History offers little evidence that capitalism is either inherently racist or antiracist. As a result, Kendi must resort to cherry-picking data to demonstrate a link. Citing a Pew article, he asserts that the “Black unemployment rate has been at least twice as high as the White unemployment rate for the last fifty years” because of the “conjoined twins” of racism and capitalism. But why limit the analysis to the past 50 years? A paper cited in the same Pew article reveals that the black-white unemployment gap was “small or nonexistent before 1940,” when America was arguably more capitalist—and certainly more racist. [“How to Be an Anti-Intellectual,” City Journal]

The entire review is a recommended read.

Laissez-faire Capitalism, defined as the social system based on the principle of individual rights, is in fact the social system that defangs racism by legally banning the initiation of physical force from all relationships.

See Andrew Bernstein’s America: A Racist Nation? and Leftist Supremacy, Not White Supremacy, is the Gravest Threat to Black Lives.