This image is our representation of the system of racial capitalism. The framework of racial capitalism helps us to understand both dynamics inside of the United States (from the origins of this country through the present day) and on a global scale (looking at how the United States and other western nations have dominated the peoples and lands of the global South). We see the framework of racial capitalism as interchangeable with other frameworks like “settler colonialism” and “imperialism.”

We use the metaphor of a strand of DNA in order to show:

  • We can’t separate these different aspects of this system, even though they are often treated as separate and independent systems. There has never been a “capitalism” which has existed outside of racism, patriarchy and the commodification of the earth.
  • While the form of this relationship has changed over time, these different strands have shown up again and again. In generation after generation we keep seeing the same results: land, wealth, security and freedom are being stolen from our people.
  • To have a just society, we need to build power to win a system with a new DNA, that has a fundamentally different way of treating human beings, our labor and the natural world.

The different strands are intended to represent the different processes through which the wealthy few extract wealth from our communities and from the rest of the natural world.

  • Exploitation: The labor of poor and working people produces the profits of the wealthy few. Seeing work through the lens of “exploitation” is the opposite of the dominant understanding of where wealth comes from: rich people making good investments by buying things cheaply and selling them for more money. Different groups of workers are exploiting more intensely than others, usually along the lines of race, gender and nation.
  • Dispossession: The theft of the natural world, human beings and “common goods” (like public education), which is committed to make quick profit and to grow the system of capitalism. Dispossession is shaped by and shapes structural racism. The government often facilitates dispossession.
  • Reproductive labor: The labor necessary for the reproduction of human beings, on a daily basis and intergenerationally. It involves mental, emotional, and manual labor. Reproductive labor is often seen as a private function, but it is actually a social function, because it is the foundation of the reproduction of society as a whole. Reproductive labor is feminized and racialized, which is connected to reproductive labor being devalued in U.S. society. Even though it is devalued, reproductive labor is integral to the system of global capitalism.
  • Extractivism: The practice of pulling materials out of the earth and into the market in order to produce profit. Extractivism is based on the “commodification” of the natural world, that is a system which treats the natural world as a free source of “raw materials” that can be treated as “commodities” to be bought and sold for profit.