Rapidly increasing global inequality is the key political challenge of our times. 1 per cent of the world’s population owns more wealth than the rest of humankind combined. Put differently, 8% of the global population owns nearly 85% of global wealth. This staggering concentration of wealth and power drives inequality between and within nations, and between the global north and south. In this lecture in the series on race and racism, Kelley wrestles with the historical processes that explain how racial hierarchies became so intricately morphed into capitalism. This relationship between racism and capitalism is explored by looking at how the consolidation of racism and the emergence of the ‘colour-line’ enabled massive wealth accumulation by a few. Using the history of the United States – a history of genocide, colonisation, dispossession, slavery and endemic violence – Kelley examines how global persistence of racism shapes our thinking about justice and strategies in the struggle against different forms of oppression and economic exploitation.
Robin D.G. Kelley is Gary B. Nash Chair of US History at the University of California (Los Angeles) and author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (2002); Africa Speaks, America Answers! Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (2012); and Thelonious Monk: the Life and Times of an American Original (2010).