"Class, Race and Power in America" - Amos Wilson

The following is an excerpt from "Blueprint for Black Power." By Dr. Amos Wilson. [MORE]

ALL COMPLEX SOCIETIES ARE CHARACTERIZED by the uneven distribu­tion of wealth and income, prestige, privilege, authority, and power. They also exhibit unequal levels of consumption, differences in styles of life, attitudinal-behavioral orientations, and sets of values among the individuals and groups who constitute them. These uneven distributions and differences among individuals and groups that constitute a complex society provide the bases for ranking them according to class as well as on other measures of relative degrees of inferiority and superiority. As noted by Dye:

the most important bases of stratification in a modern industrial society are the different roles that individuals play in the economic system. Individuals are ranked according to how they make their living and how much control they exercise over the livelihood of others.

Social class simply refers to all individuals who occupy a broadly similar category and ranking in the stratification of a social system. Social class may be defined functionally, i.e., in terms of its division of labor, such a division deemed necessary for maintaining the structural and functional well-being of the society. Certain occupational and social positions maj' be perceived as more important to a society's survival than others, requiring the acquisition and posses­sion of special skills, special abilities, training and resources, motivation and other personality characteristics not equally shared by others. Individuals occupying such positions may incarnate the prestige and power associated with these higher-ranked social positions and the conferred advantages and privileges such positions may offer. Social class may also be defined as the outcome of ongoing social competition and conflict between individuals and groups over scarce resources including property, income, wealth, power and prestige, the outcome of competition and conflict between those who may already possess or control such resources and those who do not; between those who want to take possession of such resources or who wish to see them more equitably shared and distributed, or who want opportunities to gain access to them remain equally open to all seekers. Class conflict may not inevitably result from the mere inequality of distribution of material and social resources, power, and prestige among various individuals and groups in society. For all members may, to a significant degree, share and accept an ideology which "explains and justifies the distribution of power and reward in society . . . [such acceptance thereby helping] to reduce tensions between the classes [or groups], perhaps maintaining class harmony of a sort" (Dye). Class conflict may ensue, however, when higher-ranked classes are perceived by the "have-nots" as having gained and as maintaining their positions by immoral means, at the expense of the other classes; as seeking greedily to expand their possession and control of social resources and products; as seeking to monopolize social and material resources while depriving the others of their rightful and necessary share of them; as seeking to protect their position in societ}r and to confer their advantages on their descendants exclusively; as self-servingly restricting occupational opportunity and social mobility by using various forms of political, economic and physical oppression.

Social Class and Ethnicity in the United States

The United States of America is a nation-state. As such, it contains within its well-defined borders a fairly large and concen­trated multiracial population whose conduct, institutions and economy are regulated by a recognized central government. It is a pluralistic society where wealth, income, property, authority, prestige, privilege, and power are markedly and unevenly distributed according to race or ethnicity, and social class standing. Indeed, the uneven distribution of goods and services, resources and privileges, power and prestige among individuals and groups, (a form of distribution legislated, administered, and maintained by the central government through the use of positive and negative sanctions, justified and explained by a generally accepted cultural and social mythology-ideologjO provide the bases for classifying and ranking these individu­als and groups according to levels of class and degrees of superiority and inferiority.

American society's superordinate race and classes are peopled by Whites of mostly western European descent. Its most subordinate race and classes are peopled by Blacks of mostly western Afrikan descent. Decisive governmental and social-political powers are centered in the White race, especially in a relatively small, virtually all-White male, generally hereditary, elite. In this White-dominated nation-state the Afrikan American population, though internally stratified along class lines, is essentially incorporated as a tributary, servant/consumer -orientated, social caste. White elitist domination is dependent on fully-developed system of power relationships synonymous with the organized state and on White elitist-controlled governmental and economic power employed to legislate and enforce order among the various subordinate peoples and classes. The predominance of White power, or more accurately, of White corporate elite class power, is maintained by the backing of the centralized authority of the U.S. federal government, whose authority itself is backed by the military, paramilitary, and coercive power it has at its disposal. This use of governmental power is legitimated by a generally accepted sociocultural mythologized ideology designed to justify the class-racial status quo.

The upper, White corporate class which generally possesses and controls the largest amounts and most highly valued productive properties and boasts the highest income, power and prestige, is essentially motivated by and organized to realize its desire to consolidate its superordinate position in both the national and international communities. Dye, in his comments regarding C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite, aptly describes the characteristics of the ruling White elite:

The unity of the top elite rests on several factors. First of all, these people are recruited from the same upper social classes; they have similar education, wealth, and up-bringing. Moreover, they continue to associate with each other, which reinforces their common feelings. They belong to the same clubs, attend the same parties, meet at the same resorts, and serve on the same civic, cultural, and philanthropiccommittees. Members of the elite incorporate into their own view­points the viewpoints, expectations, and values of those "who count." Factions exist and individual ambitions clash, but their community of interest is far greater than any divisions that exist. Perhaps what accounts for their consensus more than anything else is their experience in command positions in giant institutions.

He goes on to note:

Power in the executive branch [of the U.S. government], which most analysts now see as more important than Congress in policy formula­tion, is also exercised b}' individuals from the [White] upper and upper-middle classes.

Throughout the history of America the white corporate elite has utilized the government and the social system for its own self-aggrandizement, self-enrichment, and political-economic hegemony. This trend has reached tremendous proportions in the last two decades, especially during the Reagan-Bush administrations. The economic and political power gaps between White and Black America, between rich and poor America have widened alarmingly. In January 1991 the Census Bureau reported that the typical White household was 10 times wealthier than the typical Black household. During the last decade and a half the richest one percent of American families achieved the largest gains in prosperity. Three-fourths of the increase in pre-tax income went to the wealthiest 660,000 families out of a total of 66 million families. While Black inner-cities experienced actual declines in income and phenomenal increases in unemploy­ment, "the average pre-tax income of families [almost exclusively White] in the top percent swelled to $560,000 from $315,000, for a 77 percent gain in a dozen years ... in constant dollars" (New York Times, 3/5/92). By the end of the 1980s business executives were earning 120 times as much as the average worker, up from 35 times as much as in the mid-1970s. Aiding and abetting the accelerated enrichment of the rich and impoverishment of the poor was the fact that the top one percent paid slightly less than 27 percent of their income in taxes in 1989, compared with more than 35 percent in 1977. On April 21, 1992 the New York Times, citing Federal Reserve and Internal Revenue Service data, reported the following:

By 1989, the top 1 percent (834,000 households with about $5.7 trillion of net worth) was worth more than the bottom 90 percent of Americans (84 million households, with about $4.8 trillion in net worth).

The New York Times (10/5/93) reported that the most affluent one-fifth of all families had incomes averaging 8.4 times the poverty level in 1992, compared to six times that level in 1967. This occurred at the same time that the least affluent one-fifth of all families saw their income decline from 97 percent of the poverty level in 1967 to 91 percent in 1992. The poverty rate for Blacks was 33.3 percent in 1992. nearly three times the 11.6 percent rate of Whites. The Wall Street Journal (10/5/93) reported that the richest 20 percent of households accounted for 46.9 percent of the nation's income, while the poorest 20 percent accounted for just 3.8 percent of income.

A more telling comparison concerns the fact that total income earned by 400 full-time workers paid the minimum wage of $4.50 an hour for 50 weeks a year, which equals $3.6 million, does not equal the salary of the average chief executive at a large corporation — $3.8 million.

The hugely increasing wealth of the wealthiest families in America is not merely the result of salary and earnings increases, increases in the value of money and capital market instruments, property-holding and reduced federal taxes, but is also the result of federal entitlement spending, i.e., federal benefit payments to individuals. As reported by the Atlantic (April, 1992), "... only one of every eight federal benefit dollars actually reaches Americans in poverty." It further reported that "the most affluent Americans actually collect more from the welfare state than do the poorest Americans." Moreover, the magazine reports:

the aggregate amounts received by the non-needy in 1991 were staggering. One half (at least $400 billion) of all entitlements went to households with incomes over $30,000. One quarter (at least $200 billion) went to households with incomes over $50,000.

If we were to add to the enormous entitlements the wealthiest classes receive from government (some of which were merely alluded to above) including inflated monies earned by the military-industrial complex and various types of government procurements, consulting services, and subsidies of all shapes, forms and fashions forged by these classes, it would be glaringly obvious that the elite classes are looting the nation's treasury, pillaging its resources, and "mugging" its working and poorer classes. And yet the paradox is that these poorer classes (including Black Americans) seem to approve of their exploitation by the reigning elite when judged by the fact of their repeated voting into office national, state and local regimes those who serve as the instruments for facilitating their wholesale robbery by the elite classes. More succinctly, the paradox is that Black America while complaining of oppression and exploitation by White America has not consolidated its own considerable resources and reorganized its community so as to revolutionize its power relation­ship with White America and end its subordination to that commu­nity. Even though the scope of this volume will not allow adequate answers, we must at least tentatively ask: By what means does the ruling White elite, and by extension the White race, maintain its political-economic dominance and power over America in general, and Black America in particular? This question suggests the counter question central to this book: By what means and methods of organization can Black America markedly attenuate or neutralize the power of White America — White domination — and its eco­nomic exploitation by this and other ethnic groups?

The White Elite Power Structure and the White American Nation-within-a-Nation

White political and economic domination of America is founded on the fact that Whites are an exclusive nation on American soil. They are organized as a state-within-a-state, having firmly established their own political system and central government, their own economic system, cultural and social institutions and hierarchical social class structure. Additionally, this nation of Whites maintains a standing military establishment of enormous war-making and defensive prowess, a preponderant national guard establishment and police force. Through these armed services it seeks to maintain both internal and external order in the interests of its national and international hegemony. The White nation-within-a-nation is practically always misidentified as synonymous with the United States as a whole by both its White and non-White "citizens" and by the peoples and governments of other nations. Even a cursory review of the history and current social dynamics of American race relations leads one very rapidly to the same conclusion as expressed by Andrew Hacker, a foremost scholar in the field.

America is inherently a "white" country: in character, in structure, in culture. Needless to say, black Americans create lives of their own. Yet, as a people, they face boundaries and constrictions set by the white majority. America's version of apartheid, while lacking overt legal sanction comes closest to the system even now being reformed in the land of its invention."

Hacker goes on to assert, "Rather than as a cauldron [melting pot], many commentators today prefer to see America as a mosaic or even a lumpy stew. At best, the pot still contains plenty of unmelted pieces." As a nation-within-a-nation, White America strictly and stringently controls entry and naturalization of outsiders within its bounds. This is especially the case in regard to Black Americans. Membership and naturalized citizenship within the White nation are carefully scrutinized, given long consideration (especially for non-Europeans) and is grudgingly and tentatively tendered. For Blacks, special laws, court rulings, judicial reviews, special commissions, periodic reviews and legislative abrogations of, or amendments to prior civil rights laws, affirmative action laws, rules arid regulations, customary racial discrimination and the like, all point to the fact that — despite the entry of some conspicuous Blacks who are given permits as "honorary Whites" — a would-be-nation of over 35 million Blacks are forbidden citizenship in the White nation; or even if granted tentative citizenship, Blacks assimilated into the White nation are always subject to identity checks, must be prepared to present their "passports", "pass books", certificates of authority and work permits on request in order to establish and prove their loyalty — and are subject to immediate revocation of citizenship and deportation without due process for minor infractions of social codes. Again, Hacker makes an astute observation in this regard:

the question is not "Who is white?" It might be more appropriate to ask "Who may be considered white?" ... In a sense, those who have already received the "white" designation can be seen as belonging to a club, from whose sanctum they ponder whether they want or need new members, as well as the proper pace of new admissions.

Hacker proceeds to say that White America as nation-within-a-nation, reserves the exclusive right to validate or invalidate as needs be the "whiteness" or "non-whiteness" of those seeking admission into its domains. While this nation may allow any number of ethnic or racial groups a valid claim to being "white," "African Americans were never given that indulgence. The reason is not that their coloration was too dark to allow for absorption into the "white" classification ... The point is that white America has always had the power to expand its domain. However, in the past and even now, it has shown a particular reluctance to absorb people of African descent." After noting that "a very considerable number of black Americans have achieved impressive careers, winning many of the rewards bestowed by white America," Hacker attests to the existence and exclusivity of the White nation when he argues that, "Still, there is no way that even the most talented of these men and women will be considered eligible for the honorific of 'white.' They are and will remain accom­plished blacks, regarded as role models for their race. But White Americans, who both grant and impose racial memberships, show little inclination toward giving full nationality to the descendants of African slaves." "[Emphasis added]

Thus we see that the White American nation has effectively marginalized Black America and closed its borders to their absorption into its society and culture. Black representation and effective participation in its political affairs are minuscule and paternalisti-cally indulged. Black American ownership and control of its wealth-producing resources are small to the point of invisibility. Blacks are essentially excluded from full participation in its economic system. They are granted what is tantamount to a "work permit" or "working papers" in order to earn a living working at jobs reserved for outsiders and "resident aliens." The wonder is that the vast majority of Black Americans still consider themselves citizens of the same nation as Whites despite their placement on and containment in physical and psychological reservations and "native bantustans."

America essentially consists of three large political-economic, ethnic constituencies — the White American nation-within-a-nation, a set of rather articulated non-White ethnic tribes, and the rather diffuse tribe of Afrikan Americans. We have already indicated the basic characteristics of the White American nation. In fact, when the United States is described in terms of a nation-state, it is essentially the White American nation that is being described.

An articulated tribe may be best represented by any one of a number of immigrant groups, e.g., the Korean Americans. In this instance, we have a group organized around cohesive families or kinship groups, land or communities, and confederations, with formal power organizations extending beyond family ties. The articulate nature of these groups devolves from their high levels of group and cultural identity, group and class consciousness, racial-ethnic exclusiveness; their relatively high level of in tragroup cooperativeness and self-sufficiency, economic assertiveness and monopolistic business practices; their concentrated populations with an informal leadership establishment generally composed of highly respected or regarded individuals whose authority rests on their power to persuade, influence and organize their followers. Authority and leadership status is generally attained by personal achievements and abilities, and often as the result of leading important cultural institutions such as economic enterprises and/or religious establishments. The articulate tribal arrangement may yield relatively high levels of economic subsistence or surplus. In the United States, any group which achieves substantial economic surplus combined with cohesive economic-political organization and distinctive group consciousness and identity, can and does exert power and influence beyond their actual numbers in the general national population. An economically enriched, articulate tribe can use its leverage to significantly influence the actions and attitudes of the dominant White American nation and perhaps make deep inroads into its social, economic and political infrastructure. Ultimately, some of these tribal groups may be truly assimilated into the White American nation.

The Afrikan American community at this juncture in history is essentially a diffuse tribal grouping. This implies that it exhibits a number of inadequate, relatively weak, poorly focused and organized power organizations which extend beyond family ties and community groups. Its sense of self-identity, self-awareness and Afrikan-centered consciousness is unstable, tenuous and basically reactionary — meaning that its self-definition is arrived at more by default than by considered intent, more by its marginalization from and domination by the White nation than by a proactive, proud form of self-expression or self-actualization. It therefore operates around relatively low levels of group and cultural identity, group and class consciousness. Its racial-ethnic boundaries are extremely porous and over-inclusive. Its relatively low-level of intragroup cooperativeness, mutual support and self-sufficiency — its economic dependency, relatively low level of entrepreneurial drive and accomplishment and lack of control of any economic niches; its concentrated populations poorly served by a generally assimilationist, preacher-led informal leadership establish­ment — dissipates, squanders, underdevelops and stunts its enor­mous economic-political potential. This rather amorphous, reluctant tribal arrangement and the weak, ambivalent consciousness it generates and which in turn generates it, yields relatively low levels of economic surplus and political power for its own benefit. Its economic earnings and surpluses, which if conserved for its own uses would be quite large on a world-class scale, due to its diffuse organiza­tion are rapidly withdrawn from it primarily by the exploitative White nation which dominates it, and secondarily, by other more articulate tribal-ethnic groups, such as the South Koreans. The amorphous tribal nature of the Afrikan American community vitiates its capacity to develop and conserve an economic surplus and thereby destroys its ability to achieve a cohesive, economically and politically well organized community with a clear pro-active community conscious­ness and identity. Consequently, it has failed thus far to realize and exert its full power and influence to gain its complete liberation, independence, prosperity and self-respect.

The most effective organization for the generation and delivery of Black Power in the United States and the world would be a nation-state organization to counter that of the White American nation-state as well as the articulated tribal organizations of other immigrant-ethnic groups. Next to the nation-state stands the articulated tribal state as an effective power vehicle for Afrikan Americans. Why, given their concentrated population, their exclusion from the White American nation, their human resource and economic capacity, have Afrikan Americans not used either of these vehicles as the medium of Black Power? The scope of this volume will not allow us to pursue the answer to this question in any of the detail it deserves. However, we may summarily answer that it is primarily due to the machinations of the White American nation-state, led by its ruling White male ruling elite establishment, and the absence of political-economic sophistication within its own ranks which have thus far frustrated the ascension of the Afrikan American community. White racial and ruling class dominance requires a diffused tribal identity and organization of the Black American community as opposed to a cohesive tribal identity and organization of its own. For as Wellman contends:

the social hierarchy based on race is a critical component in the organization of modern American society. The subordination of people of color is functional to the operation of American society as we know it and the color of one's skin is a primary determinant of people's position in the social structure. Racism is a structural relationship based on the subordination of one group by another. Given this perspective, the determining feature of race relations is notprejudiced toward blacks, but rather the superior position of whites and the institutions^—ideological as well as structural—which maintain it.'

White American political and economic supremacy primarily requires a White race and White ruling class consciousness. White racism generates and unites Whites as a whole around a sense of race awareness and White consciousness. White race awareness reflects the feeling that, though the members of the race do not all share the same class and political interests, the}7 perceive themselves as one in class consciousness thusly: their struggles against opposing or subordinate races or groups. Dye defines 

Class consciousness is the belief that all members of one's social class have similar economic and political interests that are adverse to, the interests of other classes and ought to be promoted through common action.

White class consciousness is embedded within white race aware­ness. The level, scope and integrity of class consciousness varies from one extreme to the other — i.e., while the members of the lower classes in a society may possess class awareness, the sense that they belong to the lower or low-income classes as opposed to the middle and upper classes — they as a class "do not always share political interests, feel collective class action is necessary, or see themselves as locked in a struggle against opposing classes" (Dye). In sum, the lower classes tend to lack a relatively strong sense of class consciousness. However, it is important to keep in mind that whether in reference to the White lower classes or in reference to Blacks, the weakness of class and race consciousness, respectively, are to a great extent the deliberate result of an ongoing, aggressive, ideological campaign against such consciousness led by a highly class- and race-conscious White male elite. At the top of this elite are White businessmen.

Businessmen collectively constitute the most class conscious group in American society. As a class they are more organized, more easily mobilized, have more facilities for communication, are more like-minded, and are more accustomed to stand together in defense of their privileges than any other group. [Emphasis added]

It is this group, allied with other White elite and not-so-elite interest groups, whose ownership and control of the most influential political, economic and soeiocultural institutions, which defines reality and promulgates the values that form the bases of moral judgments, attitudinal and behavioral orientations for the White lower classes and Black Americans of all classes. It was Marx and Engels who asserted that "The ideas of the ruling class are, in every age, the ruling ideas." The ideology projected by the White ruling elite, as we should expect, is one contrived to justify and rationalize the class-race status quo and, moreover, designed to limit the range and acceptabil­ity of alternate ideologies and ways of thinking so that alternatives to established arrangements appear risky and irresponsible (thereby undercutting dissent). "People who are unhappy about the status quo are persuaded that any other system would be worse" (Katznelson and Kesselman, 1975).

The ability of the ruling White classes to maintain and success­fully exploit the class-race status quo, requires that the material and social conditions which generate and undergird that status quo function so as to foster their own race and class loyalties and cohesions while simultaneously permitting them to structure the material conditions and socialization experiences of Blacks and the poor in ways which destabilize and destroy their race and class consciousness, loyalties, and cohesions.

Once again we see that power is used not only to pursue interests but to define interests, or the range of interest choice, and therefore the range of class consciousness ....

The absence of competing images, symbols, and organization from working-class [and Afrikan American national] sources, especially evident in the United States, leaves the capitalist culture unchal­lenged and prevents the emergence of a competing class [and race] consciousness, thus further sustaining the impression that class [and race] interests are harmonious and the needs of most people are being satisfied, or that the deprivations suffered by many stem from innocent causes and individual deficiencies. Even when new demands arise, they are expressed in a context that accepts as a "realistic" given the exploitative, asymmetrical nature of the ongoing exchange relations between classes [and races].10

Preparing for Power

Educational Establishments. Sociologists Horton and Hunt (1968) note that each class in society is a subculture, each exhibits a characteristic set of attitudes, beliefs, values, behavioral norms, lifestyles and interests. Ethnocentrism and the relative cohesion of ruling White classes are not coincidental. The "virtues" of these classes are consciously and institutionally cultivated. The similarity and relative exclusivity of the educational and socialization experi­ences of key members of the ruling elite are two of the major means by which they are prepared to exercise power and authority in the interests of their class. Generally, it is in the early childhood, primary and secondary educational establishments, as well as in the under­graduate, graduate and post-graduate institutions attended almost exclusively or predominantly by members of the ruling elite, where they learn the roles, behaviors and social abilities which prepare then to wield social power. As Domhoff observes:

From infancy through young adulthood, members of the upper class receive a distinctive education. This education begins early in life in preschools that frequently are attached to a neighborhood church of high social status. 

This distinctive education continues through private elementary schools, boarding schools and a handful of heavily endowed private schools and universities, e.g., Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the like. Education at these institutions is not necessarily superior to that of lesser prestigious or public institutions, and is often inferior to the latter relative to the development of technical abilities. However, as Cookson and Persell (1985) contend, acceptance into these schools is tantamount to acceptance into an exclusive private club where shared attitudes, beliefs, lives and a sense of "character" and collective identity are forged through training and social encounters. As Domhoff (ibid) argues, "This separate educational system [or set of related educational experiences] is important evidence for the distinctiveness of the mentality and lifestyle that exists within the upper class for schools play a large role in transmitting the class structure to their students." Upper-class schooling provides the members of that class with rationales and justifications for socio¬economic inequality and aids them in the acquisition of styles of behavior and social relations that legitimate unequal relationships, prerogatives and privileges. In addition, they provide the educated upper-class members with "legitimate" authority to exercise the power they already possess and to acquire new powers when necessary.

Cookson and Persell cogently sum up the social purpose and historical foundation of upper-class private prep schools thusly:  

The preservation of privilege requires the exercise of power, and those who exercise it cannot be too squeamish about the injuries that any ensuing conflict imposes on the losers. The people who founded American boarding schools during the time of the robber barons were far from innocent or naive about how the world worked, and deliber¬ately chose heads who were adept at portraying the world in moral terms. The founders of the schools recognized that unless their sons and grandsons were willing to take up the struggle for the preservation of their class interests, privilege would slip from the hands of the elite and eventually power would pass to either a competing elite or to a rising underclass. 

Thus the idea of taking boys, in particular, away from their mothers and placing them in barracks where their personal identities were stripped away begins to make sense. These boys were meant to become soldiers for their class and to become "combat ready." They had to be made tough, loyal to each other, and ready to take command without Self-doubt.1" [Emphasis added)

With little modification the above statements also apply to White upper-class private colleges, universities, special institutes and think tanks.

Social Clubs. Upper-class private social clubs provide arenas for orienting the lives of upper-class adults in line with their class interests.   These  organizations  provide  points   of social-cultural interaction, serve as means of establishing a place in the social hierarchy and,  as  argued by Brinton, take "the place of those extensions of the family, such as the clan and the brotherhood, which have disappeared from advanced societies."13 Many families and individual members of the upper class belong to two or more social clubs in several cities nationwide. Many of the memberships are overlapping. Some of the colleges and other male-dominated or exclusively male clubs engage in secret private initiatory ceremonies and rituals reminiscent of tribal rites of passage conceived to create a sense  of class-ideological  cohesion  and  solidarity.  Hence the emphasis on tradition, appropriate etiquette, modes of expression and social interactive styles advocated and supported by these clubs and the informal gatherings among the elite at their favorite resorts and "watering holes." TTiese social institutions and activities create within their upper class members "an attitude of prideful exclusiveness that contributes greatly to an in-group feeling and a sense of fraternity" (Domhoff, 1983).

The educational and social organizational patterns which maintain the class and ethnocentrism of the ruling elite are supple­mented by the marriage practices of this group. The continuity and cohesion of upper class families are maintained by a fairly high rate of within-class marriage.

Consumerism and Individualism as the Industrial Instruments of White Elite Power — Following the trend of Parenti's thought, the White ruling elite, or as Parenti refers to them, the White "owning class," i.e., "those who possess income-producing corporate property rather than income-consuming personal-use property," creates and maintains the political-economic weakness and disarray of Black America and the lower classes by using a broad variety of methods. Two of the major means by which these ends are accomplished include the infusing of Blacks and the lower classes with a psychology of consumerism and by indoctrinating them with the ideology of individualism. Under the hypnotic influence of consumerism propa­gated by the White elite-controlled major media and socialization institutions, over-consumption provides meaning and definition for life for the lower orders. As Parenti notes, their "feeling of accomplish­ment and personal worth seldom found in work are sought in commodity accumulation." He goes on to define "consumerism" as the "tendency to treat consumption and accumulation of goods and services as a central purpose of life." Consumption as an end in itself, as a means of symbolizing social status, absorbs the life energies of those committed to personal acquisition and thereby serves to dissipate and retard, in the case of lower-class whites, class conscious­ness, and in the case of Blacks, both class and race consciousness. Parenti recognizes that "under capitalism, the acquisitive impulse . . . is constantly instigated and developed into a life imperative that cannot easily be put to rest." The "consumerist's" life becomes focused and bounded by his obsessive devotion to social-economic success and psychophysical passions and satisfactions. Caught up in or carried away by the unrelenting struggle for survival or insatiable status-striving drives, communal and social goals receive little consideration and low priority. Collective betterment through collective cooperation and action is blightly ignored or resentfully rejected as time-wasting, pointless, personally unrewarding nuisances.

The ideological individualism with which Black and lower class America is indoctrinated by the White ruling elite, an ideology which it does not apply to itself, is designed to atomize those collective groups into aggregations of individuals each of whom is almost exclusively concerned with his or her private or personal interests and life in opposition to the collective, social interests and life of the group as a whole. The ideological pablum of individualism fed to Black America produces in that community the concept of the individual as one who "exists as something abstracted from a social matrix, apart from the web of tasks, obligations, affections, and collective relation­ships which give people their identities, their social meaning, and their experience of humanity and of themselves."15 This privately defined, socially abstract, deracialized, de-ethnicized individualism is perfectly designed to induce a false and self-defeating, alienated state of consciousness in the members of the Afrikan American community in order to sap its vitality and potential. Furthermore, it functions to induce and motivate in Afrikan Americans the behaviors, attitudes and social relations which perpetuate their own subordination which at the same time, and by the same means, support and empower the racist status quo — thereby making the Afrikan-centered collective overthrow of White power an impossibility.