Arts, Culture, and Museums TIG Week: Arts Institutions and the Reproduction of Racial Capitalism by Justin Laing

Hi. I’m Justin Laing, and I’m the principal consultant of Hillombo LLC, a company working to deepen praxis in the 501-c(3) sector through Black Studies informed experimentation in evaluation, organizational development and planning.

In this post I offer a few ideas for identifying  ways that institutions in the 501-c3 arts system reproduce the social relations of racial capitalism with the intent to take steps toward a Black Power evaluation framework. My hope is that this builds out some more architecture of the “institutional racism” model offered by Kwame Ture and Charles Hamilton in their 1967 “Black Power”. My interest is in supporting the Black Power analysis of institutional racism that has been displaced by frames of “systemic racism” that disconnect racism from the systems of capitalism and colonialism Ture and Hamilton took such care to explain. Ture and Hamilton theorize Black people as an internal colony in a neocolonial U.S. but space does not allow inclusion of this issue. Also, while racial capitalism was not yet a term when “Black Power” was written, it offers an analysis of its expression in the 20th century. 

Louis Althusser, in dialogue with the Marxist-Leninist framework of the State, developed the framework of State Apparatuses. The basic concept is that the State, which exists to reproduce the (European) capitalist classes and all the other (racial) class relations, has both Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs) (e.g. military, police) and Ideological State Apparatusses (ISAs) (e.g. schools, churches). In Althusser’s framing, ideology is our embodied experience. We are having one as we walk into the grandiosity of the large White orchestra’s symphony hall, as Black people working in underresourced organizations struggle mightily to complete an rfp on time, etc. All of this is to live an embodied experience of European dominance normalizing vast disproportionate material resources held by the (White) capital classes. To explore this dimension, institutions in 501-c3 arts system could be engaged with a question like “how does it offer experiences both for its board, staff and community that reproduce or disrupt a community’s current racial capitalist relations?”. However, as Cedric Robinson made clear in “Black Marxism”, Western Marxism did not see the racial dimensions of capitalist development and so to address Althusser’s Eurocentrism, I will add Victor Ray’s framework “A Theory of Racialized Organizations”.

In “A Theory of Racialized Organizations”, Ray argues that the mezzo level of racism i.e. the level in between micro and macro, has been insufficiently theorized. This framework offers lenses to complement Ture and Hamilton’s naming of the “institution” as a critical location in the maintenance of racism. One of Ray’s frames for the macro is that of “the field”,  the governing set of ideas in which an institution operates. Unpacking the racial elements of the initial Euro Supremacist framework of “aesthetics” to see how it well it aligns with ideological experiences into which people are being invited in many canonical arts organizations or arts funders and it seems to align. Further deepening the explanatory power of the (ISA) is Ray’s frame of  the  “racialized structure”. A racialized structure is one that joins racial schema to resources, an example of which would be the annual budget of an arts funder which translates into some of the ideological experiences I mention above. This, then, leads me to slightly modified concept of the “Racially Ideological State Apparatus” as key in the reproduction of racial capitalism and a unit of analysis to inquire into ways in which an institution in the 501-c3 arts system reproduce/disrupt racial capitalism.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Arts, Culture, and Museums (ACM) TIG Week. The contributions all week come from ACA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

1 thought on “Arts, Culture, and Museums TIG Week: Arts Institutions and the Reproduction of Racial Capitalism by Justin Laing”

  1. Consider reading Walter E. Williams’ book “Race and Economics” if you want an alternative opinion on the “systemic racism” narrative of Black/White disparities. Williams argues that progressive, anti-free-market policies such as minimum wage laws, occupational licensing, and regulatory committees are directly responsible for the exponential increase in Black American unemployment in the 1960s and slowing the trend of Black Americans leaving poverty which began in the 1940s. Progressive “Marxist” policies will continue to harm Black Americans economically.

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