Friday, March 29, 2013

Classism and Racism: Similarties in Britain and the United States

The two nation-states of Britain and the United States are apples from the same tree and share the same social ills concerning classism and racism. Of course, these ills stem from the same shared history before and after the separation caused by the War of Independence, which created the United States. The three main categories which cause racism and classism in both states have origins in capitalism, Christianity and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The only difference between the two states is a geographical growth factor, caused by the two great European wars, which debilitated European economics during a period when the geographically isolated United States economy was growing by leaps and bounds.

Classism and Capitalism:

The consolidation of wealth, caused by the historical distribution of wealth and the expansion of capitalism, in both states has produced a sharp economic caste in both. In Britain, the wealth gap that creates classism can be seen in the 1994 total wealth distribution as “the least wealthy 87 percent hold only 37 percent of the total, while the least wealthy 96 percent hold on 57 percent of the total” [1]. If we do some quick math, we see that the wealthiest 4 percent hold 43 percent of the total wealth in the British state. The same distinction can be noted in the 2010 U.S. wealth distribution as “the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 35.4% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 53.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 89%, leaving only 11% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers)” [2].

Developed wealth gaps shared in these two states have developed through a long term consolidation process established through centuries of colonialism, foreign and domestic capitalist exploitation, slavery, and now globalization.

Slavery and Religion:

Just as Britain and the United States share the same economic results, similar historical colonial exploitation patterns, similar economic system structures, the wealth gaps evident in both states also have been impacted by religion, specifically the Judeo-Christian elements, and slavery. Both states still suffer from racism, which stems out of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the importation of African slaves, and the reproduction of domestic slaves after the trans-Atlantic slave trade was abolished by the U.S after 1800 in order to economically damage Britain.

What were the origins of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade? Many people do not realize that the trans-Atlantic slave trade did not originally begin as a race-based enslavement. The Holy Roman Empire and more specifically the Catholic Church started the trans-Atlantic slave trade with Papal Bull Dum Diversas issued by Pope Nicolas V which provided Portugal with a monopoly on the West coast of Africa to enslave all non-Christian heathens in order to provide labor to the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. Once Britain detached itself from the Holy Roman Empire, more specifically the catholic Church, and had elevated itself to the dominate naval force on the seas as the leading expansionist state in the world, the British had no choice but to continue the economically profitable trans-Atlantic slave trade in human labor to maximize the value of their colonies. As the lucrative value of the North American colonies grew in volume, the British North American colonies became the destination of a higher volume of African slaves.

After the independence and the birth of the United States, which was already reliant on the British economic system of slavery, was created, American Christians began struggling with a moral dilemma of enslaving fellow Christians (as many imported or domestic born African slaves had adopted Christianity either by choice or by force). It was at this point, approximately around the time when trans-Atlantic shipments of Africans were banned in the United States and slaves were reproduced domestically (and born on American soil), that domestic American slavery shifted to race based slavery which could be justified by Christian slave owners through the twisting of biblical passages (such as the curse on Moses’ son Ham). Even after the so-called emancipation, a century of racial segregation followed.

Britain and the United States suffer from the same ills of racism and classism because they share a joint history, similarities in historical international colonial and trans-Atlantic human exploitation, identical economic and government structures (representative democracy – the most easily manipulated form of democracy), and are now joint members in globalization. Oranges do not grow from apple trees.

1. Banks, Dilnot & Low, The Distribution of Wealth in the UK, Institute for Fiscal Studies, September 1994, http://www.ifs.org.uk/comms/comm45.pdf

2. Domhoff, William, Wealth, Income, and Power, University of California at Santa Cruz, February, 2013, http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

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