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Race, Class and Inequality in America

How can we bridge the struggle against racism with the struggle against economic exploitation?

Recents years have shifted the common vocabulary around racism in the United States. Concepts like systemic racism and white privilege, once heard largely in activist circles, have become common in the mainstream conversation. But how much can changing the way we talk about race actually lead to racial progress? A panel of journalists sat down with Roundtable to discuss how we speak about race in America–and whether our terminology advances, or holds back, the ongoing struggle for racial equality.

In this segment, the panel debates the significance of race and class as organizing strategies in the struggle against inequality. Ethiopian-born writer and activist Teodrose Fikramanian argues that focusing on racial divisions distracts working-class Americans from the widespread economic inequality that afflicts people of all races.

“We are all being pillaged by this, this global pyramid scheme that is taking from 99% and giving to the 0.01%,” said Fikramanian. “We're actually bamboozling ourselves when, when we take our eyes off that and, and focus on who has it better, who has it worse. We're all getting screwed.”

Sharon Kyle points out that America’s elites have long used racial strife as a tool to splinter mass opposition. She cites a 17th-century rebellion whose aftermath brought the legislation of race.

“This social construct was constructed specifically to take the poor people's eye off the ball,” Kyle said.

Sabrina Salvati cites the Black Panthers’ relationship with the Young Patriots, a white political organization, as an example of class-based political action across race.

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“They were a racist white group, and he was able to get them to say, listen, you're gonna have to denounce racism in order to join in the fight with us,” Salvati said. “He was able to get them to do that by showing them that they were being screwed over just as much as black people.”

ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS:

Sharon Kyle, Publisher of Hollywood Progressive

Teodrose Fikramanian, Publisher, the Ghion Journal 

Sabrina Salvati, Host, Sabby Sabs podcast 

Watch the full discussion below: