The Pandemic Has Exposed America’s Greatest Weakness: Capitalism
Updated: Feb 3
By Clare Buchanan
Image via Zach Harris
The United States of America was formed on bloody, stolen land. At the time of its creation, the Declaration of Independence only declared rights for a small portion of the country, the white man. The foundations of our institutions were not built to serve women and people of color. While America is no stranger to change, deep rooted prejudice still exists in our population, causing an imbalance in our society. This country doesn't need reform, it needs a revolution.
It seemed like in an instant, the pillars that held up our institutions crumbled. Suddenly, Americans realized that the country they were taught about in school; the mighty, justified, and heroic United States, was not the country they were living in. Our democracy began to collapse, revealing the ill intent of our government. While millions contracted a deadly virus, the president dismissed it as a hoax. While nurses held the hands of dying patients, anti-maskers took to the street to announce to the world that the socialists were taking over. While Black Lives Matter protestors were tear gassed and beaten for rallying for their place in a society that has oppressed them for generations, white supremacists stormed our nation’s capitol and left without a scratch. The pandemic has thrown our country into an inescapable pit. Many claim, “This isn’t America. We are better than this.” On the contrary, we are not.
For starters, capitalism in America needs a reset. Whether or not capitalism is a worthy economic principle to base a country off of is debatable. What is difficult to debate is the fact that capitalism makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. The outrageous living costs that the poor have to pay become profits for the rich. Poverty becomes inescapable when someone is living under a system that was never set in place for them to succeed. For example, this pandemic has left millions unemployed and starving, while the billionaire’s pockets get bigger by the second. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerburg made $115 billion in 2020. Meanwhile Amazon workers make barely $13.00 an hour. Not to mention, as the 1% becomes wealthier, 30-40 million Americans face eviction. Capitalism doesn’t only fuel a classist society, but it also encourages a racist and sexist one.
Capitalism is the reason why more people of color have the virus and are having a harder time getting access to the vaccine and other resources. People of color and the poor make up the majority of our essential workers. They are the ones who are bagging groceries, cultivating produce, sanitizing, and operating public transportation because they have no other option. College admissions are often designed to educate the privileged, therefore not allowing the underprivileged a worthy or safe position in society. While the poor are on the frontlines risking their lives just to pay rent, the wealthy get to work from the safety of their own homes. While this situation might not have been intentional, it represents the inequality between classes.
Capitalism is also to blame for why women lost 5 million jobs this year, while men gained them. Women were forced to stay home and watch their children, who were suddenly homeschooled in March. Outdated gender norms allowed men to continue to work. The long term effects of this is a work force slowly becoming a majority male again, strengthening the already existing boundaries that prevent women from working in certain sectors. Systematic racism, sexism, the patriarchy, and transmisogyny thrive under a capitalist society. Ideologies are mainly social constructs, but there can be a world where Americans have rights to private property and individuality, and still treat everyone equally.
Americans have been brainwashed into thinking it’s normal to have a society with the wealthy on top controlling everything, while the majority of the suffering population has to deal with the fallout. This is not normal, nor acceptable. Like philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau once said, “When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.” We can no longer sit back and let this country spiral. The power of the wealthy, the power of the white man, knows no limits. Just direct your attention to the failed ruler that fueled insurrection at our nation's capitol building.
But, the power a generation has can change the world for years to come. We must be that generation.
The change starts with holding those in our government accountable. No white supremacist should be holding a place in the oval office nor the senate floor. Let’s set an example for the youth. White supremacy is terrorism, let’s start treating it for what it is. Capitalism in America has allowed for women and people of color to take a back seat time and time again in our society. The pandemic exposed this depressing reality. But when we go back to the new normal, we can’t go back to white supremacist, sexist, and classist systems. We can reset everything the wealthy spent years constructing, and rebuild it into a society that suits all.
Written by writer Clare Buchanan