A Couple Things About Capitalism and the Black Lives Matter Movement

There’s a lot of talk these days about the role of capitalism and money in all the inequities in our city, country, and world. We have a few political candidates like Bernie Sanders nationally, and Jon Grant locally, who proudly proclaim their campaigns are not taking corporate money.

It’s not just socialist politicians who are talking about the role of corporations, and their power, in our lives. Last week it seemed everyone was talking about it. One story that highlighted this was when United Airlines called police to drag a paying passenger off a flight in Chicago so that their staffers could get a seat on the full plane. The passenger was bloodied and the situation caused widespread backlash against United. Here’s what the gruesome scene looked like as other passengers took pictures and recorded video:

So many people were angry at United Airlines, vowing to boycott the company. But, I agreed more with one author who said it’s not a single company that should be blamed, but our entire culture. Here’s a powerful part of the piece in Paste Magazine:

“I have an idea: don’t overbook the flight in the first place, and then make other people pay for your incompetence and greed…watching a multi-billion dollar business hire police to forcibly remove a paying customer not doing anything illegal is a jarring reminder of who really controls this country. Corporations clearly aren’t people, because citizens don’t have anywhere near this much power in the United Corporatist States of America.”

I was thinking about this as I headed to the Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Seattle a few days ago. I had been door-knocking for Jon Grant’s city council campaign in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood and was headed to Westlake Center for the rally.

I did a quick analysis in my head, listing all the ways corporations had influence over me as an individual just on that one day. My analysis looked like this:

I had woken up and put on jeans that I bought at H&M which is a corporation with inhumane, low-paying factories in Cambodia and other countries. I had put on pants ordered from a company in China. I’d put on shoes made by a company in Switzerland. I had ridden the bus to Greenwood–the bus being manufactured by some company and the gasoline also brought to the city by some company. Then, I hired a Lyft ride to get downtown. I drank coffee sourced by companies in Central America.

Needless to say, it’s hard to live a completely ethical life and be free of corporate influence in our capitalist society. The concern from so many people today is that we’re headed in the wrong direction on this front, giving corporate money and interests ever more power and control.

I could see these concerns echoed on many of the signs I saw at the Black Lives Matter rally in Seattle on April 15, 2017. Here are some pictures I snapped on my phone:

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There’s also been a rift within the community over the leadership of the local Black Lives Matter movement. Here’s how Seattle Black Book Club described the conflict on Facebook. It’s long, but very telling:

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Here are a few of the latest headlines from The Washington Post on my phone:

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