White ain’t nothing.’Mama’s grip did not lessen. ‘It is something, Cassie. White is something just like black is something. Everybody born on this Earth is something, and nobody, no matter what color is better than anybody else.”Then how come Mr. Simms don’t know that.”Because he’s one of those people who has to believe that white people are better than black people to make himself feel big.’ I stared questionably at Mama, not really understanding.Mama squeezed my hadn’t and explained further, ‘You see, Cassie, many years ago, when our people were fist brought from Africa in chains to work as slaves in this country–”Like Big Ma’s Papa and Mama?’Mama nodded. “Yes, baby. Like Papa Luke and Mama Rachel. Except they were born right here is Mississippi, but their grandparents were born in Africa. And when they came, there was some white people who thought that is was wrong for any people to be slaves. So the people who needed slaves to work in their fields and the people who were making money bringing slaves from Africa preached that black people weren’t really people like white people were, so slavery was all right. They also said that slavery was good for us because it thought us to be good Christians, like the white people.’ She sighed deeply, her voice fading into a distant whisper, ‘But they didn’t teach us Christianity to save our souls, but to teach us obedience. They were afraid of slave revolts and they wanted us to learn the Bible’s teachings about slaves being loyal to their masters. But even teaching Christianity didn’t make us stop wanting to be free, and many slaves ran away.â€�…She was silent for a moment, then went on. ‘Well, after a while, slavery became so profitable to people who had slaves and even to those who didn’t that most people started to believe that black people weren’t really people like everybody else. And when the Civil War was fought, and Mama Rachel and Papa Luke and all the other slaves were freed, people continued to think that way. Even the Northeners who fought the war didn’t really see us equal to white people.’So, now, even though seventy years have passed since slavery, most white people still think of us as they did then, that we’re not as good as they are. And people like Mr. Simms hold onto that belief harder than some other folks because they have little else to hold onto. For him to believe that he is better than we are makes him think that he’s important, simply because he’s white.

Recall Marx’s fundamental insight about the “bourgeois” limitation of the logic of equality: capitalist inequalities (“exploitation”) are not the “unprincipled violations of the principle of equality,” but are absolutely inherent to the logic of equality, they are the paradoxical result of its consistent realization. What we have in mind here is not only the wearisome old motif of how market exchange presupposes formally/legally equal subjects who meet and interact in the market; the crucial moment of Marx’s critique of “bourgeois” socialists is that capitalist exploitation does not involve any kind of “unequal” exchange between the worker and the capitalist—this exchange is fully equal and “just,” ideally (in principle), the worker gets paid the full value of the commodity he is selling (his labor-power). Of course, radical bourgeois revolutionaries are aware of this limitation; however, the way they try to counteract it is through a direct “terroristic imposition of more and more de facto equality (equal salaries, equal access to health services…), which can only be imposed through new forms of formal inequality (different sorts of preferential treatments for the underprivileged). In short, the axiom of equality” means either not enough (it remains the abstract form of actual inequality) or too much (enforce “terroristic” equality)— it is a formalistic notion in a strict dialectical sense, that is, its limitation is precisely that its form is not concrete enough, but a mere neutral container of some content that eludes this form.