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The Interconnection of Identity and Structural Inequality in the Legacy of Colonialism and Capitalism


Identify has numerous components, including race, gender, personality, sexuality, culture, religion, etc. Such elements determine the way an individual relates with the society. The elements are rarely unrelated to one another, hence leading to an uncommon life experience. Nevertheless, these identities do not exist in isolation; they are interconnected with the institutional frameworks that create or maintain inequity, such as racism, sexism, heterosexuality, and genocide. Colonialist legacies and notions of capitalism have largely determined the intricate linkages between notions of identity and inequality. Here, I will examine identity and structural inequality, examining the impacts of colonialism and capitalism and how they still manifest in our modern society.

Identity and Colonialism

The colonialism that saw Europeans moving into Asia, Africa, and America was a white supremacist in order of thought. The system of segregation classified individuals as ‘superiors’ and ‘inferiors,’ thereby establishing racial hierarchies. These racial hierarchies continue to exist and fuel modern racially based inequalities and biases. On top of that, colonial powers also enforced their expectations regarding the opposite gender, thus denying any other sexual orientation from being heard. Remains of colonialism in genders are still being felt in contemporary times as far as gender roles and expectations are concerned (Drake 6). Colonial powers also used to construct ethnic identities and divisions to divide their subjects. The constructed ethnic identities were artificial, which mostly resulted in war and still impacts contemporary post-colonial countries.

 Identity and Capitalism

Exploitation is a defining trait of capitalism as an economic system. The colonial racism and race hierarchies produced in history justify exploitative economic practices that have resulted in continued race-based socioeconomic divergences. Capitalism has also depended on the gendered division of household labor, which disadvantages women who are expected to shoulder the burden of unpaid domestic and care work, respectively. Gender is a key element and a part of the intersectionality regarding race and class. In addition, capitalism frequently commercializes sexuality by normalizing certain sexualities and discriminating against others who are considered non-normative.

Structural Inequality and Colonialism

Colonialism created racism in thought, which has lasted till now in people’s minds, discriminating against each other based on color or race. The implications of colonial racism are evident in systemic racism in criminal justice as well as disparities in health and education, among others. Patriarchal traditions and gender disparity also became embedded in the system through colonialism, thus perpetuating gender violence against females. Such institutionalized sexism undermines women’s ability to access resources and opportunities as well as the control of power (Quijano and Wallerstein 6). Moreover, Heterosexism, which is based on colonialist ideologies that promoted heterosexual norms, marginalized LGBTQ+ individuals. Heterosexism is manifested through existing laws, attitudes, sentiments, and violence against LGBTQ+ people.

Structural Inequality and Capitalism

The history of racial discrimination within capitalism further exacerbates existing racial disparities in terms of employment, wage payments, and wealth generation. A large proportion of people have continued experiencing such exploitations as they are traced back to the racial hierarchies that were historically rooted in the colonization that gave birth to the marginalization of certain racial groups, leading to more discrimination against them in job recruitment and thus leaving them unemployed Additionally, capitalism worsens interethnic wage gaps, since minority races are often paid lower than whites for comparable jobs (Miyoshi 13). The wage gap emanates from discriminative wage practices, limited access to good education, and limited professional careers. Therefore, marginalized races do not have a chance to amass their assets and, consequently, contribute to maintaining social inequality (Quijano and Wallerstein 9). These economic disparities are a product of systemic racism as it is rooted in the fabric of capitalism and influences different aspects of life, such as housing discrimination, inequality in access to education and healthcare, and perpetuating a culture of disadvantage for the marginalized races.

Capitalism also reaffirms traditional gender norms that underwrite the gender pay gap, unequal promotion prospects, and the denigration of feminized labor. Capitalism has continued to encourage gender inequalities through the denial of women’s access to well-paying jobs and promotions. This worsens the situation, as some traditionally feminine fields, like caregiving, are still paid less even though they have a significant societal role (Drake 12). The relationship between structural sexism and economic inequality is evident because discrimination based on gender permeates different aspects of life, such as housing, health care access, education provision, and so forth, which makes it extremely difficult for women to escape this cycle of discrimination in the capitalist marketplace.

 Resistance and Change

The author, Kimberlé Crenshaw, termed the phenomenon intersectional, which describes the dual or multiple operations of different identities and power inequalities. However, it is worth remembering such intersections, which will assist in discovering and removing them afterward (Isbester 29). Such structural inequalities have also been met with counter-movements such as social movements like black lives matter or queer studies, feminist movements, and so on. Such movements aim at changing society and creating a better, fairly arranged world. In addition, legislation and proper laws need to be implemented to correct the ills associated with colonialism as well as the capitalist approaches used in the past. Affirmative action, anti-discrimination laws, and social welfare programs are examples of actions taken toward diminishing inequalities.


The legacies of colonialism and the capitalist system lead to identity and structural inequality; they are all interconnected. These racial, gender and sexual hierarchies imposed by colonialism still influence our modern world, although with added economic exploitation by capitalism. Acknowledging these linkages is indeed crucial in the ongoing pursuit of a fairer and just world. The first step in deconstructing this system is recognizing its historic origins to work towards an equitable, fairer future for all.

Works Cited

Drake, Paul W. “The Hegemony of US Economic Doctrines in Latin America.” Economic Doctrines in Latin America: Origins, Embedding, and Evolution, 2005, Accessed 2 Nov. 2023.

Isbester, John. “Promises Not Kept: The Betrayal of Social Change in the Third World.” Choice Reviews Online, vol. 29, no. 09, May 1992, pp. 29–525029–5250, Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

Miyoshi, Masao. “A Borderless World? From Colonialism to Transnationalism and the Decline of the Nation-State.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 19, no. 4, July 2018, pp. 726–51, Accessed 31 Aug. 2020.

Quijano , Anfbal, and Immanuel Wallerstein . “Americanity As. A Concept, or the Americas in the Modern Worldsystem.” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, vol. 188, no. 8, Oct. 2013, pp. e13–64,


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