Equality cannot happen without considering class

Clara Barros/ Contributing Writer

Women’s liberation. The end of racism. Immigration rights.  LGBTQ equality. All of these struggles have been strongly associated with securing people’s civil rights. Many have fought against oppression on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality and creed, but there’s something very important that is often left out of the picture: class.

Take Hillary Clinton, for example. It is striking  and telling that so many progressive people have taken her as the epitome of women’s liberation, a true feminist icon. The would-be first female president of the United States campaigned with promises to defend women’s interests, but which women? Can we say Clinton has the same interests as Libyan, Syrian and Afghanistan women countries Clinton has helped devastate and even American working-class women?

Or take Robert F. Smith, the second richest black individual in the United States. Can we say that Smith, who has accumulated $3.3 billion and navigated through Microsoft, Apple and Goldman-Sachs, shares the same interests as a black Haitian garment worker who earns around five dollars a day one of the lowest wages in Latin America?

When we erase class dynamics, we bypass and forget the fact that we don’t just live in an unequal society we live in a deeply antagonistic one.

Watchwords like equality, inclusion, representation and pluralism are important, but we can’t pretend that systemic oppressions will be ended only by placing the oppressed in positions of power, or by spreading tolerance and acceptance of other identities.

Things like poverty and institutional racism aren’t challenges that can be overcome just by cooperation they’re intrinsically linked to the antagonistic interests of social classes, both within nations and across the globe.

This past year, Puerto Rico and immigration were hot topics. After the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, people’s attention were brought to Puerto Ricans’ civil rights as they protested being treated as second-class American citizens, according to CBS.

Few raised a debate about foundational problems: why was the island’s infrastructure so poor in first place? Why was the country buried in debt?

It turns out that these were consequences of centuries of colonialism and imperialism in the island, carried out initially by Spain for gold extraction and, from 1898 to today, by the U.S. for cheap raw materials and exploited labor. It all comes down to class and capital.

As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, here’s what we should remember: it’s not enough to simply extend rights to minorities and historically-oppressed people, while maintaining our economic and political structures intact.

King, who is probably the most iconic civil rights defender in the history of the U.S., said it himself: “You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums.”



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo by Søren Astrup Jørgensen on Unsplash.

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