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Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Robin D.G. Kelley photographed in South Africa, in March 2019. Photo: Madelene Cronjé

I am delighted to share this interview with RDG Kelley, a brilliant scholar. I also heard him speak on Democracy Now! a week or so ago, but this Intercept article just came out today (27 June 2020).

Kelley's work has always impressed me for his knowledge of history and how trends and situations build to the present. The current moment with so much potential for change has occurred because of all the work that has been done over the past several years. Organizers and supporters of Black Lives Matter have enabled people to realize that the injustices of today must be stopped. Today's resistance movement builds on those of the past.

Kelley also understands the importance of words and how meanings can change. When the current administration uses the terms "looters" or "looting", they do not realize the origins of those words. They are actually the current looters as they take away our democratic rights and even our lives.

In fact, the colonizers have always been the looters. I was a young person in the 1960s and have some memory of the looting that occurred then. It seemed to me even back then that the people who were rising up deserved to have what had been denied them.

The analysis that Kelley provides is probably most important for his understanding of how capitalism promotes racism and needs racism to continue. We must all recognize how capitalism pits us against each other as we compete for jobs, security, and material goods. I encourage everyone to read his discussion of Cedric Robinson's term "racial capitalism":

Racial capitalism, as far as Cedric Robinson, the late political scientist,

understands it or explained it basically was built based on this idea that

capitalism itself is not distinct from racism. The way we think of racism is that

racism is a by-product of capitalism. That is, capitalism emerges and racism is a

way to divide workers. It’s a way to extract greater value from, say, enslaved

people, Indigenous people, etc. But what Cedric argued was that the grounds

of the civilization in which capitalism emerges is already based on racial

hierarchy. And that racial hierarchy is not necessarily the global one, it’s even

within Europe itself that racial distinctions were ways in which early capitalism

was able to take advantage of certain groups over others, whether it’s in terms

of wages, whether it’s in terms of dispossession and forcing people off the land,

using violence against the Irish, for example. We don’t think of the Irish as a

racialized group, but in many ways, in the 16th century, that’s what they were.

.... (Excerpted from John Scahill. "Scholar Robin D.G. Kelley on How Today’s

Abolitionist Movement Can Fundamentally Change the Country." The

Intercept. 27 June, 2020)

~~ Eleanor Weisman (Associate Professor, Dance and Movement Studies at Allegheny College)

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