Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Johnson: Chapter 3

In Johnson’s chapter three of Power, Privilege, and Difference he talks about capitalism, class and the matrix domination. He approaches the fact that many students don’t know where racism comes from and don’t understand why it still exists. Johnson answers these questions by going back into history of race where he points out that history hasn’t always been around and the racism and capitalism came about at the same time. I believe that Johnson’s thesis statement of this chapter is that capitalism played a major role in the development of racism and especially white privilege.
Johnson states that capitalism has been the predominant and virtually the only economic system around since the demise of the Soviet Union. He defines the basic goal of capitalism as “to turn money into more money” (42). The capitalists did this by employing people to work for them for low wages. The employees had no choice in how much they earned, they were just lucky enough to have a job. So because capitalists profited from the difference of the cost of producing the good and the cost that they sold it at, they wanted to higher the cheapest labor they could get. Also capitalism not only produced a large amount of money it also produced a very large inequality between classes. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and more middle class people moved down to the lower class.
So not only did capitalism separate the population into classes based on wealth, it started white privilege with the direct connection of the enslavement of Africans as a source of cheap labor (45). Whites hired slaves: Africans, Chinese, Japanese any labor they could get that was cheap so they could profit from their labor. To justify their forms of imperialism and oppression, whites developed the idea of whiteness (46). They used this idea to control white workers. This racial division became an effective way to divide the different segments of working class against each other. This is still present today with the idea of affirmative action and the fact that whites find it unfair that other immigrants are getting jobs because they will work for a lower wage. Also capitalism exploits people with disabilities and also shapes gender inequality in the workforce. However, Johnson states the idea of the matrix domination and the fact that people can be privileged and unprivileged at the same time. It’s not a (+) and (-) thing, both privileges and unprivileged categories can be assigned to one person. Such an example would be a black, male, heterosexual. He possesses the privilege of being male and heterosexual however he is unprivileged for being white.
So as Johnson asks at the beginning of the chapter, why all the oppression and hostility and violence over something that is made up? Well, as Johnson points out through his argument, racism has been around for a long time and we, as Americans, do not know much different then thinking in this way. Privilege is so prevalent in our society that oftentimes it goes unnoticed. Many white male will state that they don’t experience white or male privilege when in all actuality they do, it is just so ‘normal’ to them that they take it for granted. Therefore, racism is something that is not easy to get rid of or forget. It is something that will be a part of our lives forever. Even though it may seem like it is made up, it has become such a large part of what this nation is that it will be nearly impossible to get rid of it.
I really enjoyed reading this article and learning how capitalism relates to whiteness and privilege. It truly was an eye-opener to see how it has come about and clears the waters about why it is still around. I also liked the explanation of the matrix of domination and how it really isn’t a numbers thing.

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