White supremacy has ensured that people of color have suffered the worst oppressions our country has to offer — from the genocide of Native Americans to slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, deportation and the vast racial wealth gap. But white folks have not been spared from America’s ongoing war on the working class, which has been waging since our country’s founding. White Americans continue to face high rates of suicide, poverty, debt, opioid overdoses and alcoholism. While these rates don’t match the disproportionately high levels of suffering among people of color, our shared vision needs to be more than the racially equitable distribution of suffering: All suffering and injustice must come to an end. Though it has largely remained on the margins of both academia and activism since its inception, racial capitalism — a term initially put forth by Black radical political theorist Cedric J. Robinson in the 1980s — offers a helpful lens for understanding systemic oppression. At its core, this concept holds that racism and colonialism were built into the heart of feudalism and continued to permeate western civilization as it transitioned into capitalism. Rather than operating independently of one another, racial capitalism teaches that economics and racism are inseparable. Capitalism intentionally organizes society through economic inequality and racial divisions, working hand-in-hand with white supremacy to oppress the many while empowering the few. Under our current system, people of color are oppressed through state violence, poverty and the lack of economic opportunity while they are simultaneously blamed for the precarious position of lower- and middle-class white folks. By comparison, white people are provided with a variety of “privileges”. From greater access to housing and employment or less abuse at the hands of police and the courts, white people are granted enough of a sense of security and entitlement to feel somewhat invested in the status quo. But we can’t confuse privilege with power. Working-class white people need a better quality of life just as much anyone, but racial capitalism purposefully acts to keep wealthy white people in power.
Rafael Diaz in Challenging the “White Ally” Model: To Defeat Racism, We All Need to Dismantle Racial Capitalism (Inthesetimes)