The Black Working Class

The images we have of the working classes in America are surprisingly uniform. The popular cultural image right now is a Mike Rowe like character in a hard hat spouting some bootstrap bullshit. We know otherwise, we know our history and we take it to heart. For African american workers it is the history that is unsurprisingly uniform. What is thought of as neo-liberal global capitalism now is and has been the experience of African Americans from the very beginning. The mercenaries who raided African villages were employed by various nations and companies, dragged to ships owned by a corporation, and manned by crews from around the world. Their bodies insured by international insurance companies, sold by brokerage houses that traded in the “stocks and bonds” of the captives, often they were sold several times before arrival. Investors in specific voyages stood to make fortunes on the miserable human cargo. Sold onto plantations, factories, boats, and mines that were owned by international conglomerates that owned portions of the individual captive. There is very little neo in this globalization.

Black workers in America have resisted and struck from the moment of birth to the moment of death. This working class power is the legacy that belongs to all of us. Working Class power is personified in the captive African American. White Workers must learn to share this heritage and lift it up. It is time to retire the word slavery in the context of white employment, there is simply no comparison in the horror.

As a Black worker I am keenly aware of the heightened risks that we face, both inside and outside labor. Our History is shared and we can go so far but only if we do it together.