Now + Beyond

Why black folk especially suffer in a for-profit, capitalistic world

Let's talk about the ancestors, because we're not about this life

We know that the world is dominated by European influence.

English is the language of scientists worldwide. Many nations nowadays are various kinds of democracies, stemming from the Grecian model that inspired the United States governing system. And, of course, we have to look at the beauty standards across the world: straight hair, light skin, and light eyes.

Through colonialism, capitalism has also become the norm in modern global society and this has heavily affected people of color because our worlds were drastically changed due to European forces. Black folk especially are challenged, and to understand why we have to understand a bit about Afrocentricity.

Afrocentricity views the world from an African point of view. It takes into account historical ways of being that have been found within African folk. A lot of these practices directly clash with Eurocentric standards. Afrocentricity prioritizes spirituality, art, and community. In contrast, capitalism prefers individualism, profit, and order. These things can match up, but they do not very often.

Black folks have always been pawns in capitalist ventures. It started with the enslavement of Africans. Turning human bodies into profit strips away autonomy, even more so when one looks at the practices used to break enslaved Africans. They could not speak their own languages, practice homeland rituals, or even remain with their families. Many generations have been taken away from their ancestral homelands.

African theology is centered on spirituality based on the gods. However, your ancestors are also your gods, and you join them in the afterlife once you pass, in order to take care of your descendants. This is heavily rooted in the lands you come from, so removing black folk from their homelands is especially trying. Spirituality, no matter who you praise, is an intrinsic value of Afrocentricity.

Vitality in an African community is the community. Every person matters and should be addressed, no matter how large or small their part in the community. If there is a problem between two members of the community, everyone must work to resolve it because the harmony of the whole is threatened. In opposition, a capitalist system finds profits to be the most important. Large corporations enact rules and policies that often don’t allow for normal human problems. Most workplaces care that you’re late to work, not why you are late. Many employers leave little room for employees to take a mental health day, or leave early in the case of crisis. I’ve worked jobs where folks were too sick to perform and were given the option to get in an ambulance or finish their shift. There was no middle ground. No opportunity for regular rest, chicken noodle soup, and the necessary Nyquil. On top of everything, leaving would still affect their attendance record, despite sickness being the reason. The protection of the business over individuals is too hard on working individuals, but especially so on black folk who operate on such a community mindset.

There’s a joke somewhere about black people always being late. However, this also has a basis in Afrocentricity. Capitalism is about order and punctuality. Within an African worldview, it is more important that you showed up, not that you didn’t show up on time. This concept is a most poignant revelation in Dr. Joy DeGruy’s Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome. She recounts the events of a meeting she attended in Southern Africa. It was intended to begin at eight o’clock, but most people showed up around nine o’clock. When folks trickled in later, the whole meeting would stop for them to be welcomed. Some would walk around and say hello to each person, while others would choose to join quietly. Everyone left when the work was decidedly done. She states specifically “to those at the meeting it seemed as if nobody showed up ‘late’. They simply showed up at another time.”

This is something that would never happen under a Eurocentric and capitalist system. Order and timeliness are too important. However, this is how black folk can be stifled. Even though many of us have grown up in a Eurocentric world, there is a worldliness that can never leave us. Considering our ancestors are so intrinsic to our being, whether we know it or not, there is very little way for us to comfortably escape the inevitable grief that comes with a for-profit system.

On top of this all, when you take into account how disenfranchised black folks have become. How we are disproportionately impoverished, how we are targeted as criminals, and how we really are swept under the rug… it’s very easy to understand why this system does not work for us. Even though we are no longer slaves, with no reparations paid, we are perpetually stuck behind, and capitalism is one of the largest contributing factors to that.