Capitalism, per Dictionary.com is “an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.” Meaning that to be benefited by capitalism, you must be the capitalist, or the executive owner of said product.
However, in the time of Edmund D. Morel, a black socialist, and even in time before, the capitalists, or the people the idea of capitalism favored, were white men, not African slaves. Thus, Africans were forced into labor, and in these situations, the capitalist labor regimes were a lot more intolerable and a lot harsher on the African workers than on the European workers if any.
For almost all mankind has been on this earth, there has always been a childish sense of “I’m better than you” as shown by the constant warring whether it be nation versus nation, or tribe versus tribe. Most of the time it was a case of European warriors versus warriors of other races, and it usually ended deplorably for the other race. In his “The Black Man’s Burden”, Morel explores this harsh reality. The unfortunate truth is that the capitalist labor regime was never in favor of the black man or any other man, except the white man. For the labor regimes to favor any other race than the white race, the others would have to be equally as rich, which was not the case. In an ideal world, each race would have been on an equal playing field but that was borderline impossible, since the countries, and people of these countries were underdeveloped and poorly equipped to fight anyone other than neighboring tribes, especially when it came to fighting Europeans, as they were far more technologically advanced.
Morel states that “what the partial occupation of his land has failed to do…the power of modern capitalistic exploitation, assisted by modern engines of destruction, may yet succeed in doing.” And that “there is no escape for the African”. As a young African American woman watching the destruction of her people daily, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Morel was right. We are the new aged slaves. Not necessarily in terms of literal bondage, but mentally. We are slaves to social media, to name brands, and to this botched idea of an “American Dream” that really does not exist. However, I feel as though especially for the African American man, because he has always been targeted, because he has always had a sort of code of conduct forced upon him, which does not favor him in any way, shape, or form, there is a disconnect between he and his source of strength which is his home.
In the case of the African man, he is a foreigner in hostile territory. Fast forward from 1920 when “The Black Man’s Burden” was written to 2017. How many countless young black men have been murdered because of police brutality? How many funerals in just this year alone have been arranged? To be black in America is exhausting it has always been treated as though it was a heinous crime when it is simply a “metaphysical dilemma I have not yet conquered” (Maya Angelou). Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden”, which inspired Morel’s 1920 essay, shows this idea blatantly. His premise for the poem is the idea that the white man is saddled with this insufferable burden of spreading their religion (which is and was, Christianity), their ideas, and cultural norms across the world, when no one had ever asked for their opinion. It was a sort of misguided sense of Manifest Destiny. Ironic how all this destruction, and chaos was done in the name of god.
Like all great men, Morel was ahead of his time. I believe without a shadow of a doubt that the system was in fact a lot harsher on the African slaves than it was on their European counterparts because, there were none. The system was set up so that it gave to the rich and stole from the poor forever doing irreparable damage. Had the system been fair to both sides then perhaps Morel’s argument would have fallen apart but the fact of the matter is that the system was unjust and we are still seeing those effects today.
Dominique is currently studying Psychology at Bridgewater State University with a double minor in Middle East Studies and Music. In her spare time, she is a poet and artist. She hopes to use her voice as both a journalist and artist to empower the unheard.