This systemic focus, crucially, does not inflate “racism” to make it explain all racial disparities, but understands that such inequalities are outcomes of many phenomena that interact with racism, yet cannot be reduced to only racism. These include technology, political economy, and cultural patterns. As early as 1964, for example, King presciently warned in Why We Can’t Wait that “if automation is a threat to Negroes, it is equally a menace to organized labor.” Arguing for an alliance between civil rights and labor activists, King foresaw how capital investments in “efficiency” would dislocate middle-class jobs, stagnate wages, and devastate unions’ political power. Granted, discrimination and historical disadvantage would cause these burdens to fall hardest on poor blacks—yet it still opened the possibility of broader political alliances.
This article is a fantastic summary and critique of King’s philosophy.