Racism is about more than individual prejudice. It relies on the interests of those who have the real power in society and the economy, and use every possible means to hold onto it. It’s about capitalism and class struggle.
This is the main argument presented in The Political Economy of Racism, an intense and enlightening book by Melvin Leiman (Binghamton University) about the roots of racial discrimination and racial disparity, and especially their persistence in the United Sates.
Leiman thoroughly examines the complex and changing relationship between race and class in the American capitalist structure — in housing, job market, the criminal justice system, and other realms of social relations in the US. “Racial conflict overlays the antagonism between classes (though class antagonism may seem abstract, while racial conflict is visible). The capitalist mode of production is rooted in and legitimates a hierarchical socioeconomic structure. Racism, an extreme form of hierarchy, is woven into the fabric of the structure. Bourgeois ideology now openly acknowledges racism – it is too obvious to ignore – while concealing the class nature of exploitation.” (Leiman 2010: 3)