As the world continues to be a deeply racist society, racism continues to inhere in at least two aspects of the system. First, the continued exploitation of people of color for profit. And second, it is demonstrated in the demand that people of color must accommodate to the white man’s system, rather than vice versa. 

The  capitalist system is the fundamental issue. The system depends on exploitation,this basic fact means that capitalist societies, can never rid itself of poverty; poverty is the basis of wealth. 

The dependency of the rich on the poor is the fundamental, hidden reality of this system. Racism is a system of exploitation. It is a mechanism for effectively controlling and oppressing peoples so that a maximum of profits can be extracted from them.

The  relationship between capitalism and racism is closely connected. Capitalism evolved because of imperialism and the ability to extract wealth from the other nations and peoples of color.

Racial capitalism is the idea that racialized exploitation and capital accumulation are mutually constitutive. Racially minoritized and economically deprived groups face capitalist and racist systems that continue to devalue and harm their lives, even within newer, supposedly deracialized neoliberal agendas.

Lack of health-care resources, higher rates of poverty and joblessness, and racially discriminatory treatment in  communities of colour are fundamental causes of disparities in mortality.

This racist difference in conditions comes from racist organisation of political power, wealth, and public resources. This mode reflects a historical commodification of racial identity. 

A racial division of labor continues to be very evident in this society. Despite the movement of small numbers of people of color into middle class jobs, almost all of the “dirty work”in this society continues to be done by people of color.  Anyone who keeps their eyes open for one minute will see it. Who makes the beds in the hotels? Who cleans the floors in middle class houses? Who collects the garbage? Who empties the bed pans in hospitals? Who does most of the minimum wage jobs in this nation, and the below minimum wage jobs?

The exploited labor of these millions of workers fills the coffers of the wealthy, virtually all of whom are white. Wealth is continuously drained from  communities of colour , through the hard labor and lack of remuneration of their people. The huge wealth of white-owned corporations rests on the backs of the hard labor of workers, many of whom are people of color. There is a systemic racial oppression that keeps people of color doing the dirty work. 

Racial capitalism creates conditions and ideologies that devalue the lives of masses of people who are presumably recognizable by their skin color, hair texture, or facial shapes, to devalue their labor. This relation creates the conditions for super-exploitation by race, by gender, by citizenship status. It produces the systematic knee on George Floyd’s neck, the hunting down of Ahmaud Arbery, the slaying of Breonna Taylor. It produces systematic protection for their killers.

The capitalist system of racialized labor involves the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars each year in value from the labor-power of Black and Brown people to white owners of capitalist enterprises. 

If there is a class division in the Black community, then race can no longer be an important factor in our society. Class and race are not opposing dimensions, which somehow need to be sorted out. Rather, capitalism is a system that breeds class oppression and racial conquest. The two forms of exploitation operate in tandem. They are part of the same system that creates inequality, impoverishment, and all the other host of social ills that result. You cannot attack racism without attacking capitalism, and you cannot not attack capitalism without attacking racism.


Contributor: Orthalia Kunene

Orthalia Kunene is a mother, activist, feminist and writer based in Soweto.


Her journey started as a activist fighting for service delivery issues in Soweto, with an Organisation called Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee/Operation Khanyisa Movement. Her writing  gave her strength to not shy away from the truth, it gave her strength to hold local government accountable and to advocate for access to information and  transparency through addressing socio-economic issues; inequalities around gender-based violence and climate change.

She is currently volunteering for an Organisation called keep left, as a working group member, keep left is a revolutionary socialist organisation that believes in workers control of society and the means of production. She is also a volunteer at an Organization called Extinction Rebellion, a climate change Organisation that seeks to fight the climate crisis. Her main focus is on Climate change issues, gender inequality and addressing issues of capitalism and how it feeds on inequality – particularly in South Africa.