168 pages of calculations
168 pages assessing people as commodities
168 pages estimating economic returns on “investment” in the poor
168 pages of financial depravity, inequality, callousness
168 pages of too few with too much and too many with too little
160 pages built on the trans-Atlantic slave trade
400 years from Jamestown’s ledger books
400 miles between Jamestown and the Harlem Children’s Zone
Robin Hood Foundation bought the calculations.
All 168 pages
We will be hearing a lot in the coming year about universal pre-k and community schools, wrap around services, and the cradle to career pipeline. What is coming has been at least two decades in the making. At its core, it is about a commodities market in human capital, one derived from our brutal national legacy of racial capitalism. I predict the coming sales pitch will evoke a tone of reconciliation and remorse, acknowledgement of harm done with generous “solutions” proffered as remedies to trauma meted out over generations on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.
I urge caution when dealing with foundations and their venture capitalist donors, especially those who got their start trading cotton futures like hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones. The United States has not reckoned with its past. There has been no soul-searching. Much of New York’s wealth came from shipping the commodities grown and harvested by enslaved Africans. Merchants sent luxury goods south, while the city’s financiers backed bills of exchange, allowing slave holders to mortgage human lives and expand agricultural empires built on bloody violence.
The money being funneled into the Harlem Children’s Zone has its origins in that history. The legacy of chattel slavery has indelibly shaped our social relations, as again and again repressive systems of control are remade in new variations, no less devastating. Those at the pinnacle of power, and the executive and middle-manager accomplices who carry out their wishes, continue to devise ever more sophisticated mechanisms of control (mass incarceration) and tracking (digital identity / apps / electronic monitoring / drones) through which to extract profit through continued oppression. Programs endorsed by the financiers may at first glace appear benevolent, but foundation grants for “good work” will demand repayment in data. That’s what FEPA and SIPPRA put in place. Don’t kid yourself; the elite intend to use that “evidence-based” data to maintain their hegemony.
We would do well to remember that demands for “efficacy” could readily be twisted to bitter ends. Consider the parallels between growing interest in digital identity systems and Hollerith punch cards, the system used to track, deport, and murder targeted populations during the Holocaust. In the wrong hands, data tied to a workforce pipeline could easily become a pipeline to mass incarceration, peonage, or even extermination. You don’t have to try to hard imagine such a future given that Palantir and Amazon Web Services, both of whom draw considerable income from the surveillance state, are servicing “pay for success” projects in California already.
Will you allow human care to be reduced to data for viewing on a dashboard? When your funders impose a data collection regime, which they will, what do you do? We are what we have always been, a nation built on stolen bodies and stolen land. We have not yet moved beyond that disdain for human life, that toxic whiteness. Once we know better, perhaps some will choose to do better. I hope this post will open a door. In this perilous moment we must be willing to risk for one another; to own and address this past history. We must recognize how much is at stake.
What lies ahead is racial capitalism’s new operating system, one that embraces digital surveillance and predictive profiling just in time for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s jobless future. Cue Omidyar Network’s digital identity for all with MIT’s Davos pitch for Blockchain+AI+Human=Magic (tracking “systemic risks” in real time). Understand our future is a continuum of our past, one where oppressed communities occupy landscapes, real and virtual, defined by their carceral potentiality. For this human capital market to operate, speculators must frame Black, Brown, Indigenous, and the poor as inherently “broken,” always a burden on the public coffers, the exact cost of that burden something to be monitored, assessed and calculated in real time, another justification for community surveillance.
This is a the second in a series.
Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.
Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds
Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?
Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?
Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab
I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.